The Tenacity of the Tongue

The Tenacity of the Tongue: 10 Tips To Tactfully Speak Up in the Workplace

Entrepreneurship

The mighty tongue has been responsible for igniting wars, bringing peace, and dividing families. But how much of this was not due to words but tone? Most, if not all, of us, have been misunderstood at some point. What we said and what we meant somehow didn’t quite connect. It was the tone, the volume, or the emotion.

Tonality accounts for approximately 38% of communication, according to studies. So how do we speak up in the workplace without being, or should I say sounding, offensive? The tongue is sharper than any two-edged sword. But here are 10 tips to at least help you tame the tone at the workplace. 

1. Smile

Something as simple as a smile can make all the difference. You can hear and feel it even through the phone lines. Try it sometimes! Smiling will not only affect the tone of your voice but your emotional state as well. And if that’s not enough, there are numerous added benefits such as boosting the immune system, relieving stress, and lowering your blood pressure. So, speak with a smile!

2. Clear the clutter

If you are feeling offended, you will most likely sound offensive. Past hurts or disagreements can subconsciously color your tone and sabotage your efforts. Oftentimes anger has been brewing for years and seeps out in daily conversations and interactions. Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about the effects of trauma on the brain, mind, and body in “The Body Keeps the Score.” Clearing the clutter will not only clear your tone, but it is likely to improve your health and longevity.

3. Speak from the heart

Now that you have gotten support and cleared the clutter, simply speak from a place of integrity and sincerity. Go within before you let it come out. In other words, be sure your heart and mind open before your mouth. This will earn you the respect of both the boss and your peers. And before long, others will be asking for your opinion.

4. Believe you add value

Consider what your contribution is to the company and how you have and will continue to add value. If it’s just a job and you hate Mondays and live for Fridays, you may not feel speaking up makes a difference. Start believing in what you have to offer. 

5. Come from a place of service

This ties closely with #4. Not only believing in your value but coming from a place of service changes the energy. It goes from “listen to me. I know something you don’t,” to “I am here to help, and I have a suggestion.” Begin each day with the question: Who can I serve? It is next to impossible to sound offensive while coming from a place of service. However, as with many of the other tips, it involves a mindset shift. 

6. Lower your volume

This does not mean drop your head/shoulders or lower your level of confidence. It simply means a loud, boisterous voice has a tendency to sound more offensive than a lower one that is still steady and confident. You might even speak a little louder initially and lower your volume once you have the floor. Keep in mind there’s no need to permanently alter your personality. Simply make some minor adjustments to achieve your desired result. Just use your “inside” voice ☺.

7. Practice

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” You know the joke, but it’s true. So, I ask – Is it important to you? If it is and you’d like to remain employed and add value, practice. Pull aside a few coworkers, family members, or friends and practice. Do a little role-playing. Perhaps you have sounded offensive for years, and no one has had the guts to tell you. Practice and ask for open, honest feedback.

8. Record & Review

It was quite surprising for me to hear my voice on a message I left for a friend years ago. I did not realize I sounded like that. I would encourage you to record your voice and listen to it. I know you’ve been listening to it for years, but I promise it sounds a little different when it is recorded. Give it a try. You, too, might be surprised. 

9. Ask for input

The best way to resolve a concern is to address it upfront. Perhaps this ought to be #1. In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” he talks about confronting obstacles head-on. If you are criticized for sounding offensive, ask for input. State that you are making an effort to improve and would like assistance in that area. 

10. Don’t give up!

YOUR VOICE MATTERS! As with anything worth having, it may take some time. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t give up. If sounding offensive is the perception of one person, it might be his/her issue and not yours. Continue to look for opportunities to try out your voice. Start small and observe the reactions. Your voice is valuable—USE IT!

E. Marie Hall