Should you speak your mind?
The other day I read a quote by Barbara Corcoran in which she states “Never be ashamed of who you are. People always recognize and appreciate authenticity – in any style.”
Corcoran who, besides her extensive credentials as a business woman, syndicated columnist and investor, is also one of the “sharks” on the popular television show Shark Tank.
This led me to wonder . . . to what degree is authenticity tied to our ability to speak our minds.
Let’s face it, on the show Corcoran is not a timid soul, nor is she reluctant to tell it like it is. As the first woman to own a real estate brokerage firm – which she sold for $66 million just a few short years ago, she is definitely someone who speaks her mind.
So, is one of the keys to success the ability or willingness to speak one’s mind? Is authenticity demonstrated in being a what you see, is what you get person?
Based on my experience, it all comes down to credibility, intent and delivery.
If you look it up in the dictionary, credibility is defined as possessing “the quality of being trusted and believed in” and/or the “quality of being convincing or believable.”
For Corcoran, the source of her credibility is clearly defined and represented by her success.
However, do you need to build up a business and sell it for $66 million before people will listen to you? No!
Your credibility is built in the small, everyday things you do, as you work towards your bigger goals.
If you say you are going to do something, and then do it, you build credibility.
If you demonstrate consistency in terms of living your values, you build credibility.
Think of it in the context of compound interest. The more you do the small things, the more your credibility will grow, and with it the weight your opinions and words will carry with others.
While being direct and concise when you speak your mind is important – I will cover this in greater detail in the next section, it is the underlying intent that ultimately comes through in your words.
In his February 2014 Inc article titled 5 Reasons You Should Speak Up (Even When You Think You Shouldn’t), Kevin Daum wrote about how “the greater good” should be the priority when someone speaks their mind.
Specifically, while you might be reluctant to say what is on your mind because you do not want to offend someone or be seen as criticizing another person, by staying silent, you may be doing far more harm than good.
In every case why you are saying something is as important as what you are saying.
Or to put it another way, remaining silent while the bus you are on is going over a cliff serves no ones best interest.
Conversely, speaking up simply to be heard or make someone else look bad is equally destructive.
So, before you open your mouth to speak ask yourself, how will this help or improve the situation? Even if your words are cutting, if there is an ultimate good that will come from it, then silence is definitely not golden.
We are all familiar with the term “it’s not what you are saying, but how you are saying it that matters most.”
Speaking with authority and clarity is important in that it demonstrates you are not merely expressing an opinion, but speaking from a position of insight and experience.
However, talking down to someone or coming across in a dismissive manner, will overshadow the merit or validity of what you are saying. So be respectful.
If by speaking up you find yourself in disagreement with someone, do not say, you are wrong and here are the reasons why. Instead say, “you have an interesting point of view, but here is my take on it.” Then go on to explain upon what you are basing your input, and why you believe it is worthy of serious consideration.
Of course, and no matter how you express yourself, someone might still get offended anyway.
If they do, then patiently listen to what they are saying and unless they have presented an alternative view that changes your mind, stay firm without becoming emotional. In short, always speak from a position of cool certainty versus defensive condescension.
In the end, speaking your mind with integrity and transparency in a manner that demonstrates your desire to make a situation better, is the best way to showcase your authenticity and value as a person.