Encouraging Colleagues to Express Themselves
When encouraging our colleagues to open up and express themselves, we need to be more mindful of our biases within the workplace. That is, are we prepared to listen to what some colleagues have to say, but not others? Perhaps you are more ready to listen to colleagues who identify more strongly with your own values, attitudes and beliefs. Actively seek out those colleagues who differ from you with respect to age, gender, faith, educational background, and culture and create space to allow expression.
Your active listening skills will help you here. Active listening involves, speaking less and listening more, not simply waiting your turn, but being present within the conversation and attending to the core themes discussed and reflecting these thoughts and feelings. Also, use positive reinforcement to increase the likelihood that your colleagues will continue to express themselves. In other words, reward your colleagues for speaking up. To do this, highlight the value that your colleague’s contribution brings to those around them. In creating space, you are modelling for those around you that it is safe to express yourself irrespective of your background.
Encouraging your Children to be Themselves
In order to encourage your children to be their authentic selves, attend to their interests rather than areas of disinterest. Show a genuine interest in their passions, demonstrating that their passions are worthwhile to pursue. It’s not unusual for children to feel a need to go along with the crowd, and jump onto whatever fad might be popular at the time. Children might do this in order to be included within their social circles and not appear as unusual and different. Help children to recognise the benefits and costs associated with following the crowd, allowing them to make informed decisions.
It’s also valuable to highlight how individuality has helped you in life, and how fads come and go. It can also be useful to draw the child’s attention to those around them, thereby allowing them to identify what they like about their friends, family, and idols, and what they dislike. Finally, encourage children to be involved in problem solving and decision making. For example, how family time should be used on school holidays. Including children in this decision making demonstrates that you value their opinion. This will help develop your child’ self-esteem, encouraging them to speak up and be more independent.
How to Encourage Yourself to Express Yourself
There could be multiple reasons you choose not to express yourself. Have you expressed yourself in the past, only to have your thoughts and opinions fall on deaf ears? Perhaps you prioritise others’ needs before your own, and therefore struggle to speak up about what you want. It could be that you find conflict uncomfortable, and opt to stay quiet. Thereby managing the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings which accompany conflict.
When encouraging yourself to voice your opinion, know that simply because you have had negative experiences in the past, does not mean that all future instances of expression will lead to negative outcomes. In order to express yourself, it is crucial that you recognise that there is value in you expressing yourself. Ask yourself, what do you have to gain by speaking up? Attending to the potential gains can help motivate you. It is also helpful to build your assertive communication skills. Assertive communication involves being clear and direct about your needs, linking your needs with your thoughts and feelings, acknowledging the perspectives of others and encouraging problem solving. Finally, make a conscious effort to speak up about your needs rather than waiting for opportune moments. The more you express yourself, and have positive outcomes, the more your confidence will grow. As your confidence grows, the easier it will be to speak up in the future.