If you’re finding that you slink down more and more hallways with your eyes averted, that you sit and and listen to your own thoughts during meetings, that your friends are saying more and more things that rub you the wrong way, maybe it’s time to express yourself!
Listen, we know all the cliches about listening more than you talk: “We have two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we should talk.” “First, seek to understand.” “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” (Ernest Hemingway said that). “It takes a great [person] to be a good listener.” (Calvin Coolidge). “Nick and Ian deserve a bunch of ice cream.” (Just checking to see if YOU were listening. Well, okay, reading).
While it’s true that there’s a fine line between listening enough and talking too much, we’re pretty sure it’s a bad idea to ONLY listen. There are times when you simply have to say what’s on your mind, even if it might be a little challenging for your listeners. The truth is, you’ll probably end up in a better place if you express your thoughts appropriately and make sure they’re understood than if you always defer to others. A little discomfort now can often mean a lot less discomfort a few months down the road, when perhaps your co-workers or friends have made a lot of assumptions about your opinions when you failed to speak up.
Another benefit of speaking up is that you get to hear your own ideas spoken aloud. Often what sounded great rattling around inside the vast chasm of the brain pan sounds a little odd or uncomfortable when it gets echoed back by the people around you. If you make sure to speak your ideas in a friendly setting, and set the figurative table with a qualifying statement or two (“I just thought of this. What do you guys think of … “), you can try your ideas out, get some feedback, and modify accordingly. As it turns out, people like to be included in the development of ideas, so you may be helping those around get on board even as you’re fine tuning what you think about a topic.
And the last thing we’re going to say on this topic is that if you find you really, truly believe something that the people around you really, truly disagree with, that’s a great opportunity to reflect on whether your relationships need to change. Of course, if you are just disagreeing with your girlfriend on where to go to dinner, you should probably put the matter in perspective – if most everything else about her rocks your world, go ahead and go to Taco Bell, just this once. But if you find that you’re among co-workers who day in and day out make decisions that you believe are seriously wrong-headed, and they simply will not change, it might be time to send out your resume!