Even when it’s risky, do you speak up?

How  often have you seen something or heard something you know is not right and not said anything?  We all do it and sometimes the outcomes can be devastating!

Sue was in hospital for a routine tonsillectomy.  She was otherwise a very healthy woman in her mid thirties.  While in theatre the surgeon scrubbed in and proceeded to operate and removed her right foot!

Worse than that, there were 7 other people in that theatre that saw the surgeon doing the wrong thing and no one spoke up!  Why don’t we speak up?  For most of us it is fear, or complacency – we think “surely someone else will say something”.  Imagine how Sue felt when she woke to find such a horrible mistake had been made.  What about the surgeon?  How did he feel?

From a very early age we are subconsciously taught not to speak up.  This feeds into the idea that speaking up is risky.  We are not comfortable speaking up, what if we are wrong?  What if we look stupid? What if we make the other person angry?  Now hospitals are not the only place where this happens.  This occurs in workplaces every single day.  Think of the last time you saw something and knew it was not right, but thought “nope, I’m not saying a word, last time I spoke up I got in to trouble with the boss”.

Who in their right mind would want to anger someone in a position of authority over them?  Surely no one would? But here is the key!  Why does speaking up mean that we will anger someone?  I agree that we have all in the past avoided conversations because we are fearful of upsetting someone.  If we learn how to have these tricky conversations in a more effective way there is no need to fear the outcome.

The way you handle difficult conversations is usually one of two ways.  Firstly, you may become silent or sarcastic and use innuendo and subtle hints (like looks of disgust or disapproval) to get your point across.  How is that working for you?  When you hold back from sharing your true opinion you then create a situation where you may have to live with an outcome you did not agree to, but hey you didn’t speak up!

The other way is to become manipulative or aggressive and forceful to push your opinion onto someone else.  How is that working for you?  In this case you may get your way some of the time but I promise you it will be destroying your credibility and trust in your key relationships.  It’s just a matter of time.

How would you feel if you knew that you could have any conversations with anyone about anything?  These conversation and communication skills are accessible for you.  It’s about knowing how to create an environment where any topic can be addressed.  About creating an environment where it is safe for all parties to share their perspectives.  Once everyone knows where people stand honestly you can come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.

Have you ever thought, “there is absolutely no way I could ever say that!”  Or, “if I told them this they would be so upset!”  This may not be true, this is the story that you are telling yourself.  The skills of creating safety, sharing your opinion, remaining calm and working together to come up with a positive outcome is possible for us all.

in the next edition of light bulb moments we will discuss how your style impacts on how you handle difficult situations, what you feel and what you are likely to do.  When you understand yourself, you are more able to change the behaviours to get a better result.

Teamology is running a workshop in Sydney November 2014 that will teach you the skills to deal with these difficult conversations – details coming soon.  So if you are keen to feel more confident, to say what you need to say, to have that conversation you have been putting off then check out this workshop when it is released later this month.


Until next time, Care, Connect and be a Courageous Communicator.  Let’s change the world we live in one conversation at a time.