Today one of your peers has expressed an opinion different from your own. You've heard differences of opinion from this person before and at times have avoided saying what you think. Either you fear the result or out of need to avoid conflict, you said nothing. Later, you regretted not voicing your opinion.
Today you have a choice - share your opinion to avoid regretting this moment, or stay silent to avoid creating a conflict.
Generally speaking, you are good at communicating. Like most people, you know what is important to you, you share these things to some degree and you feel good about the result.
Yet there are 3 times any of us could stumble in our communication efforts:
* when we feel those listening have a difference of opinion
* when our emotions are negatively engaged
* when risk escalates
In today's case, you definitely have hit the first circumstance - there is a difference of opinion - or at least an apparent one. It has put you on hold, briefly contemplating whether you will respond the same way as before.
In the case of the second circumstance, the more you dwell on it, the more difficult it will be for you to express yourself, for your emotions will get tied to what your opinion is. You may get anxious, frustrated with yourself, nervous about how to say it, angry that there is yet something else you are holding back on. The more emotional you get, the harder to step out and express yourself OR the faster you speak without carefully preparing your approach.
Since this is a peer and not, say, your boss, the risk may not be severe. Yet if you are committed to spending quantities of time with this person, eventhough the relationship/authority doesn't pose a problem, the time with the individual could. The longer you are around someone who gives you emotional distress, the greater the risk to your ability to communicate with confidence, the risk to your ability to think clearly and the riskier your level of stress.
If it were a boss, depending on whether you have authority issues, this could create a major difficulty. You may be more apt to be passive aggressive - smile and appear in agreement while stewing inside. If it were your direct report - someone who you wish to correct or to be on the same page with - the harder it will be for you to be objective and encouraging around them if you simply let it go.
So what will you do to speak with confidence? Without knowing more about your circumstances and what patterns of behavior you have had or demonstrated around them, the best nuggets of focus for you to take are the following:
1. Decide how you want to come across to them - friendly, supportive, thoughtful, concerned, etc. Once you decide, your manner will follow suit.
2. Ask questions. Instead of just blurting out your own thoughts, seek to discover as much about how they have come to those conclusions as you can. This gives you a warming up period to discovering how to phrase what's important to them while then sharing what's important to you.
3. Remember that sharing your view is just about that - about sharing your view. It needn't be about convincing them.
4. Share your view, based on whatever perspective you have - experience, other resources, your own deductions or proof.
*When the topic isn't very important, the more you practice actually saying what you want to say, especially in a manner that helps you feel good about it as a result, the more confident you become when it's very important for you to speak up.
*Practice often with your peers. They are on your same level, so they are a foundational approach to getting used to sharing differences in ideas, strategy, opinion, etc.
*When feeling comfortable there, next practice sharing differences of thought with those in authority over you. Take care to respect their thinking, learning more about it, yet also valuing your own thinking enough to have them consider it.
*It is vital to allow direct reports have differences of opinion and thought. Create a space that allows for free expression while also helping all reports to appreciate your own value.
Practice may not make perfect, in this case, but it will build confidence. And if confidence leads to your own peace of mind, then work towards it!