Find Your Voice Using the Spectrum of Assertive Speaking

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Speaking Up

Spectrums are common in nature, of light, of consciousness, and of political views. But I have yet to come across a spectrum of assertive speaking. Here, I use the notion of a spectrum to showcase an effective coaching process for people who want to speak up for themselves more at work, or to delegate more, or to stand up for themselves in general.

Step One — Noticing

You either notice or you don’t. Growing your voice is not a matter of re-contacting something that has been suppressed. It is seductive to accept the arguments of some people that we all have voices that are suppressed by society, but I think this is unhelpful (except in cases where severe physical or emotional abuse occurred while growing up, but that’s not the norm, by definition).

Step Two — Fantasizing with Curiosity

This is the step that most people arrive at quickly after they notice what they “should have said.” Instead of feeling bad or ashamed during these moments, recognize that you are on a path, and you’ll have ample opportunities to practice. Write those perfect comebacks down on paper. But also write down why you would need to be courageous in that prior moment. What would have been at-risk for you had you said those things? It’s likely that those are the natural constraints with which we must all reckon during our development.

Step Three (A) — Forming with Thought Experiments

In this step, you will begin to form the things you might say if those natural constraints did not exist. There are a few things that you can do with this step, things that have nothing to do with an actual response.

Step Three (B) — Anticipating with Thought Experiments

After several rounds of the above, you will naturally begin anticipating where someone is going during a conversation. In the past, such anticipation would likely motivate you to a defensive position. By remaining calm in the face of what you might say, you are beginning the process of hatching your voice.

Step Four — Practicing and Interviewing

Practice what you might say next time in front of a mirror. Practice with a coach or friend. Role play. But don’t forget to give the other side their due. Create genuine responses and ask anyone helping you to occupy those responses with the same feelings or views of that person.

Step Five — Safe Experiments

“Step into the punch” as they say in martial arts. It’s not easy to give up the values of work and love that are a big part of maintaining the status-quo. But every ending is a new beginning (perhaps this is my bias, but I’ve seen enough to believe this is generally true).

Step Six — Less Safe Experiments

Similar to the above, except you will “turn up the volume” when speaking up. You’ll likely turn the actual volume of your voice down, because after a few attempts, you will have greater emotional regulation during conversations. You may still need to remind yourself that your voice matters, and now you can add, “I’ve been here before, and it was o.k.”

Step Seven — Consolidate in a Narrative

Well-meaning processes the world over leave out this crucial step. Write down all of the things that actually happened or did not happen, including things that have not-yet happened which might, because you’ll write those final results down later on the same page or notecard. This last move completes the creation of neural pathways that compete with the Primal Learning Loop.

  1. Refusal of the Call — The resistance you felt for responding to the feedback.
  2. Supernatural Aid — The Spectrum of Mindfulness Practice! (Or, an Immunity to Change development map, if you have a coach with whom you can create one).
  3. Crossing the Threshold — Seeing how much you’ve been holding yourself back as it is happening.
  4. Road of Trials — All of your anticipations, interviews, and thought experiments, your moments of practice before running experiments.
  5. Temptation — Any despair you might have experienced which caused you to want to give up.
  6. Transformation — Running your first experiments.
  7. Atonement — Running your less safe experiments.
  8. Ultimate Boon — When you realized that you are living in a different world, where your backhand can be as good as your forehand, maybe even better in certain ways.
  9. Refusal of Return — You are now so good at your backhand, you rely on it more than your forehand!
  10. The Return — Knowing when to use your forehand, and when to use your backhand, and why. This is wisdom.
  11. Master of Two Worlds — Gaining the ability to mentor others on this same journey.
  12. Freedom to Live — Any insights you have gained about life in general, based on your transformation.

Some Final Thoughts

There is no going back after you give birth to your voice, and that is a good thing. Nobody can take it away from you even if they attempt to stifle you, because your voice is a state of mind, a worldview that elicits respect from all parties, especially yourself.

executive coaching & recruiting; tennis & automotive enthusiast.

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