“If You Think It, Say It”

February 16, 2016

We’re often our own worst critics. We have voices in our head that tell us that we can’t, we won’t or we shouldn’t. Confidence is something that only a few of the lucky ones are born with. Most of us have to try pretty hard to learn it as a skill.

When I first started out in this industry, I would sit quietly in client meetings on the 16th floor of an agency in New York City, taking it all in. I felt I had so much to learn and maybe not the most to contribute.

One day, a client told my supervisor that I added “no value” to meetings, so she would rather I not be present. When I learned this, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “I do SO much behind the scenes,” but she had no idea. I practically wrote the presentation being shared, but again, she had no idea. I whined to my supervisor about this, but he simply shrugged and said “perception is reality.”

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That moment was pivotal for me, and from that point on I would sit in meetings, not taking it in, but being very aware of my presence in the room and trying to find the perfect thing to say. I would keep my mouth shut at times while weighing the pros andcons of saying what I thought I should say — and sure enough, someone else would say it, while I was deep within my own negotiating process. I wanted to scream out “I had that thought too – but, umm, I just hadn’t had the courage to let it spill out of my mouth yet.”

Just the other day I sat down with a junior coworker on my team who was still working on speaking up in meetings. I gave her the advice I now give to myself: “If you think it, say it.”

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Now, this is not advice for all of us. And not advice for all situations. But for me, this is advice that has served me well.

Today, when I attend meetings, I proudly speak my mind. Because the thing is, I do have value to add, and that value will do no good caught up in the dialogue in my head. It does much better poured out onto the conference room table for everyone to chew on.

And let me tell you, 10 percent of the time, it is a pure miss. But 90 percent of the time, it’s right on — and I have my old client to thank for that. Because, hey, perception is reality — and I am here to add value.