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How to Speak Up at Work

When you express a strong or a divergent opinion, your listeners may use cognitive distortions to interpret your opinion.

The fact of our lives is that what you say will go through the mental filters of those you are saying it to- their experiences, their rules, their upbringing, their culture and their disposition before being parsed and understood by them. You are in no control of how they will understand what you say but you can mitigate the erosion of the message by creating a safe environment for them to understand it.


Here are a few recommended actions:

Use a Behavior or Value Frame:  
People build a series of mental "filters" through biological and cultural influences. They then use these filters to make sense of the world. Thoughts become opinions and are affected by attitudes, rules, beliefs, and worldviews The choices they then make are influenced by their creation of a frame. Framing selects certain aspects of an issue and makes them more prominent in order to elicit certain interpretations and evaluations of the issue, whereas the agenda-setting introduces the issue topic to increase its salience and accessibility. 

Set the tone using the Behavior Frame and the Value Frame by communicating that the reason for your opinion is based on a common commitment towards a better product or culture or discussion.
Then share your disagreement.




Share your good Intent:
Create safety for the other person by quickly and clearly explaining your positive intent before you share your strong and diffident opinion. It may also be useful to explicitly state what you do not intend. For example, “I am just trying to add to the conversation because of my experience in the topic. I do not intend to question your apparent expertise and authority on the subject.” 
Creating safety for the other person helps avoid enablement of unnecessary mental filters in the understanding of your intent by the other person. 


Focus on Emotion as well as Content:

Most organizations focus more on the content of what people are saying and avoid discussions on the emotions they exhibit while sharing the content. The problem with this is that even though we do not discuss the emotions, we guess at what they mean and assume the worst about the person who shows those emotions. A good strategy would be to ask about what caused the strong emotions whenever you see them. When a person explains his or her forcefulness, it prevents observers from assuming the worst and create mental filters around the validity of the content of the discussion or the motive of the speaker.

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