When my family gets together there are always loud discussions and debates about topics of big concern as well as unimportant nonsense. We are never at a loss for words to share and express, although some of us are more vocal. Opinions and judgments fly around like seagulls circling for fish at the beach. It’s not that we don’t enjoy being together or care for one another but rather we each hold onto our beliefs tightly. We get into a rhythm of thinking our perspective is the way everyone should view the matter being weighed.
In much the same way, the people we work with either on our teams or in different departments engage in these same types of debates. When we collaborate on a project with someone, differences of how to tackle the process can arise. Just like my family we may honestly think our views are the only way to look at finding the best solutions. It’s the way we communicate our opinions that can make or break the ideas we share.
Here are four ways to swap speaking down to speaking up:
STAY FOCUSED ON THE ISSUE
When we are working alongside people on a project or collaboration, we get to know both their strengths and blind spots. Just like with my family members, we may not realize that we are straying from the issue at hand and making the conversation about the person. If that happens, it would be great to just take a step back and refocus the discussion. The best results will come if we remain on target with the problem at hand.
AVOID WORDS THAT ATTACK
Our choice of how we share our message is crucial in making our points. Using “judgy” language like: “You are so lazy” or “You can never come through” will only escalate and derail a constructive solution.
- Be clear
- Be specific
- Be descriptive
- Don’t assume or presume
TRY TO SEE FROM THEIR MOUNTAIN TOP
We all have our reasons of why we feel a certain way of approaching difficult issues. Sometimes there is no perfect right or wrong. Successful outcomes require us to be empathetic and peer into the other person’s lens. Ask yourself: Why are they viewing the situation this way? What might be impacting such an opposite perspective? Do they have a point and should I be considering it? Speaking down only incites and increases the confusion.
LOOK FOR COMMONALITY
When my family argues, I am usually the one to step in and try to figure out what common threads run through each of our different suggestions. Often we are not so far apart that we can’t string all our ideas together. Someone needs to rise to the occasion and take action. Similarly, in our workplaces the opinions may seem at opposite ends at first but in reality have more similarities. Jump in and lead the way with a positive statement about working toward the same goal. First, list out all the suggestions on a whiteboard or flip chart. Then create categories to put the ideas under and then develop an integrative plan.
How do you lead by speaking up and not down? What tips can you share on pulling together opposite perspectives?