Have you ever been afraid to speak up even if you know you’re right? I know I have, a lot! Sometimes it’s just easier to keep quiet rather than to engage in a debate with someone who’s opinionated but ill-informed.
Situations come up where if I had time to write down my thoughts I’d have a flawless argument every time but life favours those who can speak up loud, bullish and confidently off the cuff even if what they’re spouting is a pile of rubbish.
In these situations I’d usually just keep my mouth shut. I’d let the person have their moment. It was water off a ducks back to me. I didn’t particularly care if whether they thought I was right or wrong. I cared more about what everyone else would think if I piped up and couldn’t get my point across.
The problem was though that a lot of the time I’d be selling myself short. Missing out on opportunities because of the fear of looking stupid.
I remember when I was younger, not long into my working life. I was selling I.T. to local businesses and this meant dealing with company directors on a daily basis. Back then I was relatively naive and initially talking to company directors made me nervous.
I’d be selling HP Pavilions over the phone picturing Peter Jones or Deborah Meadon on the other end waiting for them to say “I’m out!”
I felt intimidated. I imagined these powerful, influential men and women at the top of their game. I expected someone who was in charge of a company to be really switched on, bright and influential.
Truth was, most of them weren’t. In fact lot of them were borderline unintelligent. But that didn’t mean they weren’t good at what they did.
The qualities that they all had in common were that they were focused, assertive, they got straight to the point. They didn’t beat around the bush, if they wanted something they’d straight up ask for it no matter how bold or unreasonable it was.
They didn’t care about what I thought about them. The only thing they cared about was getting what they wanted. Fulfilling their objective. It was almost robotic.
I used to think that a slight lack of intelligence was an asset for directors and entrepreneurs. They were clever enough to run a business but it enabled them to make decisions without fully being aware of the risks associated with them. They had a kind of blissful ignorance.
Empathy is the Enemy
Thinking back, maybe I was doing them a disservice. Maybe intelligence wasn’t the factor. Maybe it was empathy. Empathy is probably the biggest thing that’s held me back in the past.
Looking back, I’ve missed out on numerous opportunities and been on the raw end of lots of deals by either not speaking up when I should have or from worrying too much about what other people would think or how they would feel.
I’d give up things because I wouldn’t want other people to miss out. Sometimes things I really wanted! I knew how I’d feel if I didn’t get it and I’d hate thought of knowing I’d subjected someone else to feeling the same.
Now I run my own company I’m going to have to be more assertive. There are going to be times when I’ll have to take what I want rather than worry about how it’s going to make people feel. That’s the very nature of competition I suppose. Everybody likes to win but not everybody can.
Empathy is a quality that directors need to be able to turn on and off. They need to strike the balance between doing what’s right and doing what needs to be done.
So basically sometimes I’m going to have to be a t#@t. This might be a difficult challenge to overcome…