Now when I speak, people pay attention.
I used to have a secret. Sometimes when I spoke, no one listened.
I would present my ideas and thoughts to the discussion and stare as they drifted away, heard by no one. They were lost to the noise and so I didn’t repeat them, because why bother a second time. But I stopped that. When I speak now, everyone listens.
I have many reasons why I want to be heard, just like you; when I am standing in front of my boss, asking for a raise, I am determined to be heard, after all, I know I deserve it and they should know it too. This is described as an ambitious request — a great example of when you absolutely need to be heard and properly listened to.
Another voice that you should always want to be heard is when you add your ideas into the fray, like at a brainstorming session or a corporate meeting. All too often an idea will fizzle before it has had a chance to live.
If you feel strongly enough to voice your mind, then you must make people listen, otherwise when you aren’t heard, it is like never having spoken in the first place.
Speaking Up When it’s Not Obvious
Confrontation can be difficult, you want to speak up but you also don’t want to rock the boat and fall out. It happens to us all, and it is always a pain to deal with. Last week a friend of mine walked up to me, he had the biggest grin on his face so I asked why. He proceeded to tell me one of the most insensitive jokes I have ever heard and I wanted to freeze; if this was anyone else I would have been furious, and yet I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do just because he was my friend.
But this isn’t the only form of confrontation, there is also the awkward variation, the worst example being when you have to correct a boss to his face — even now I wonder if it is ever worth it. However, we shouldn’t feel bad. We are only trying to help!
“If someone corrects you, and you feel offended, then you have an ego problem.”
― Nouman Ali Khan
Straddling the Fence of Your Comfort Zone
How far we are willing to go is depends on how large our comfort zone is. Many people make the mistake of dismissing the notion of a comfort zone as purely symbolic, but instead, I see it as a fundamental part of my social toolkit. It dictates how far I am willing to go to achieve something and whether the fear I feel is real or just because I’m far out.
If you stay within your reach, you will deliver mundane ideas that have been heard a thousand times before, but you will do so confidently. Your chances of success will depend on how other’s see you, as well as how you value yourself. But if you step out, your ideas will manifest differently and creatively. You will present fresh takes on old conversations, but you will do so from a position of weakness.
You reach too far and fall short of confidence, and yet it doesn’t diminish your brilliance, only your persuasiveness.
This doesn’t mean that a comfort zone is static, it most definitely isn’t. In fact, it varies massively depending on 4 major factors. These are the things I am most excited to teach you about because they are, without doubt, the main reasons I can lead crowds and command attention when I need to.
- Power Level
- External Perspective
- Emotional Investment
These 4 factors will dictate how large your comfort zone is, and therefore how far your ideas can travel.
Your Power Level vs. Your Speaking Time
Everyone knows that high-level executives rarely listen to their workers, but what most people forget is that this trend travels the entire height of the organisation. There is some wiggle room, sometimes your influence might travel two or three additional tiers if you’re really lucky, but on the whole, you can only convince those below your rank.
However, there are ways to change this, such as those Julian Treasure explains in his HAIL method as:
Speaking to someone with honesty means to speak clearly and truthfully, you are trying to help someone understand you, instead of hiding the meaning behind a facade. Authenticity simply asks that you be yourself and integrity demands that you are true to your word, following up what you say with reliable action. Finally, to love is to treat people with kindness, that is all.
The combined power of these teachings has been shown to greatly increase the rate at which you are listened to, and thus expands your comfort zone further.
Speaking With External Perspective
The way you appear to others often contributes to your social reach in a discussion, those with deep voices and broad shoulders have historically been heeded regardless of their merit, whereas high-pitched women have similarly been overlooked at the same rate.
The way others see you will determine how they listen to you. To get around this, you should employ a few tools. Such as:
- Speaking from your chest
- Taking the perspective of others
- Recruiting allies to aid you
Speaking from your chest gives you the appearance of confidence and leans heavily on split-second judgements from others. Whereas, considering other perspectives can altogether take significant effort and time to do well. But by doing this, you will make those around you feel as though you have genuinely considered their stance and will be more flexible to adopting your ideas.
Finally, asking others to support you in a negotiation is always a boon, it is far harder to say no to five bad ideas than one good idea.
Showing Emotional Investment
If you have ever been convinced, even for a second, to study dinosaurs after seeing the childlike wonder of a little kid explaining his favourite dinosaurs, then perhaps you should encourage them to take up public speaking.
Displaying passion is an excellent way to leave an impression in someone’s mind about your thoughts and ideas. It can be contagious!
Showing that you care about something implies to the listener that you must have a certain level of expertise on the subject, and if they think you know what you’re talking about, then you’re halfway to an agreement.
Realistically Speaking, You Need Experience
Sometimes we think that people ignore us because they don’t like us, or because they don’t think what we have to say is worth anything — but really it’s because we haven’t earned their approval. To them you are just another voice, and maybe you are right, or maybe you are wrong, but it isn’t their place to decide and so they don’t.
Developing your knowledge on a subject you wish to speak about is a fast-track to people sincerely listening to your views on it. We all want to learn from people who understand the world better than us, and so we may even come to you for advice personally.
Your comfort zone is a great tool to gauge how far from home your thoughts and ideas are, but you should frequently assess where you are stood in it. Too close to the centre and you risk being ignored, but too close to the edge and you might appear altogether wild.
The real trick is learning how to find balance within your zone, and when you do find yourself with a crazy idea, make sure your zone is large enough to support yourself and your crazy idea.