Pet peeves… we all have them. Nope… I’m not mature enough to say: I’ve gotten over all my pet peeves. As a work-in-progress though, I’m thinking about one of those pet peeves and am trying to evolve it into a “positive trigger”. What exactly am I talking about? Ok, here’s the story.

Speaking Up

In my later corporate career I became acutely aware of this pet peeve. When I would speak up in a meeting (usually voicing a counter opinion or just openly questioning something) people would quickly respond by IM or email saying things like “you said what we were all thinking”… “finally, someone said that out loud – I agree”… “preach sister”… “I know, right?!”… etc. etc. etc.  I should have been flattered, right? Ok – I was… at first. But it didn’t take long for the feeling to change from flattered to super annoyed.

If you were feeling this way… why didn’t you say something?

If you don’t understand, why aren’t you asking for clarification?

Why am I the only one saying something?!?

Fear Quiets the Voice

Whenever I actually asked these questions out loud, I’d get responses like: you’re so much more eloquent than I am. What I learned however, was that for many, the stronger underlying message was: I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of being wrong.

I’m afraid of retaliation.

I’m afraid of looking bad / stupid.

Tbh, I should have taken more time asking those who didn’t speak up… why? What’s keeping you from expressing your opinion? How can I help you find your voice? What can I do to support you? While I couldn’t do that for everyone, I did have opportunities to do this with my team and this is what they taught me:

  1. The last time I spoke up, no one listened.
  2. I’ve spoken up before and got reprimanded.
  3. What’s the point of speaking up if it isn’t safe to do so?

A Safe Space

There was definitely more beneath the surface than I originally imagined. Psychological safety was a huge piece of the puzzle. I had to intentionally provide that safe space so my teammates could grow comfortable with their individual voices… build the muscle memory and courage to speak up beyond my team meetings… and grow to believe in the value of their individual points of view.  

To be fair, there are lots of other dynamics that play here. As an executive, I was given a lot more room to voice an alternative position. History and organizational culture run deep and play a part in shaping mindsets. Those items and more can be revisited in other posts (remind me… and/or… tell me what you’d like me to address). But for now, a few items:

REMEMBER: Relying on a “what she said…” approach limits your ability to address more nuanced elements that could give you deeper understanding.

CONSIDER: What do YOU need to effectively build then use your voice?

REFLECT: When did you feel you were heard?  What environments or circumstances contribute to using your voice to the fullest?  Who are the people you’ve learned from … and … what did they teach you?

Taming the Annoyed Beast

Pet peeves aren’t likely to go away. But what I’m trying to be better about today is how I respond to those peeves. Rather than jumping quickly to being annoyed, I need to respond with more compassion, support, and an ear to learn. As a work-in-progress, I can’t promise I’ll be great at that every day… but… choosing to be aware and hold myself accountable is the first step toward evolving my habits.

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