a representation of communication through a phone, a trumpet, a letter and a carrier pigeon

If you want to grow in your career, you obviously have to meet expectations and do great work. But there’s another critical ingredient you need to scale the ladder of career success: you need to speak up.

Experts claim that naturally outspoken people are more frequently chosen for leadership positions over their introverted counterparts. One study of BBC data found that highly-extroverted people had a 25 percent greater chance of landing in a high-earning job than those who weren’t as outgoing.

Of course, we’re not saying you need to be an extrovert to be successful. Introverts are incredibly valuable in the workplace. But the data demonstrates a telling need for all workers to know how to share their opinions and contributions. Research from Glassdoor found that “open dialogue” and “honesty” were traits that help employees get promoted. 

So, where do you fit in on the open dialogue scale? And where can you improve? Take this five-question quiz to find out. 

3 tips for making your voice heard

Speaking up can help you get ahead. But here’s the thing: it can be challenging to do – especially if you’re somebody who gets a little clammy when it’s time to chime in. 

Here are three things you can do: 

1. Think carefully about your medium 

A recent study found that recipients of a two-word email (“nice work” or something similar) interpreted the message as sarcastic 60% of the time – even if the author was being genuine.

Obviously, there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation. For casual communications, adding an emoji can help clarify your tone. Why? Because emojis are processed by the same part of our brain that processes facial expressions

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But for important conversations, it’s best to schedule in-person or video meetings. Your body language and tone of voice add a lot of clarity to your message and reduce the possibility of confusion.

Tip

Think about what method you’d want somebody to use to communicate that particular message to you. Putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes will help you choose the most effective medium – rather than defaulting to the one that’s most convenient for you. 

2. Recognize the importance of context

Context includes timing, audience, environment, and even emotional states (yep, research shows that our emotions will impact our perception). All of these factors will determine how effectively your message is received.

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Failing to consider these types of external factors can lead to mistakes, confusion, and even some hurt feelings. So don’t get so focused on the content of your message that you forget about context. That matters too. 

Tip

Not sure if it’s the right time to make yourself heard? Just ask. A simple question like, “Is now a good time to offer a piece of feedback?” or “Can we talk about this project now or should I put a separate time on the calendar?” can help you nail your timing and ensure your message is well-received. 

3. Know your “why” (and share it proudly)

You should always do the necessary homework before voicing your own opinions. That’s table stakes. But there are three other core things you should be aware of before speaking up: 

  • What you’re sharing
  • Why it matters
  • What result you’re aiming for

Perhaps your team is in agreement that you should host your next B2B webinar on a Thursday morning. But, after looking at your engagement metrics, you want to suggest Wednesday afternoon as a better event time. 

Here are two different ways you phrase that suggestion: 

Option #1: “Actually, I think it’d be better to host the webinar on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Option #2: “I’d suggest hosting that webinar on a Wednesday afternoon instead. I took a look at our previous engagement metrics, and that appears to be a better time for the majority of our users. I think we’ll see more live engagement if we adjust the event time.” 

The second option is far more compelling, because it focuses on the why. It backs up your statement and draws a line to the results it would achieve for everybody. 

As humans, we have a psychological bias toward hasty generalization – meaning we sometimes draw conclusions without sufficient evidence. When you provide plenty of support for your opinions, it avoids crossed wires and proves that you think things through before jumping in. 

Tip

When you want to share something, ask yourself, “Why should people care?” and then make sure you provide a clear answer to that question when you speak up. It forces you to connect the dots for your team, rather than leaving them to make assumptions. 

Quiz: have you mastered the fine art of speaking up for yourself at work?