Whether it’s in your job, your personal life, or family affairs, often one of the hardest things to do is tell someone you care about a hard truth. It’s even harder if the person you’re talking to holds some level of power over you, like a boss or manager.
But to speak truth to power, letting a boss or figure of authority know that something they’re doing isn’t working or is wrong, is necessary for being part of a team.
But trust me, we know that this is much easier said than done. Going up to someone with authority over you, someone you may even respect, and telling them they’re doing something wrong, can be difficult to wrap your head around.
To learn more about what speaking truth to power looks like, check out ASAP’s blog post about it here!
That’s why we’re going to give you some pointers to help you prepare and eventually carry out speaking truth to power.
Before taking your concerns to your boss, make sure you’re really sure about what you’re saying.Try to know both sides of things, try to view it from every angle you can. If there’s any chance you might’ve misunderstood or misinterpreted a situation, hold off.
Think about how hearing what you want to say might feel from their side. This way you can think about how to present the truth in an impartial, thoughtful way.
Do I want you to go out and talk about your boss’s failures to anyone who will listen? No.
Find a trusted friend or colleague, maybe even someone who doesn’t even go to work with you, and get a second opinion.
Venting out some frustrations can feel really cathartic and might even make you feel better about things. But it’s important to know the difference between venting and explaining.
If you want to vent for a minute, that’s completely valid. But if you’re genuinely looking for an opinion on something, try not to be biased. Speak only facts so the other person gets the whole story.
And remember, just because their opinion might differ from yours doesn’t mean you’d be doing the wrong thing by speaking truth to power.
Trust your instincts and go in feeling even better knowing you’ve seen more than one perspective.
Think about yourself too. How might someone feel hearing this information from you? Do you have certain privileges that might not benefit you in a sensitive situation? Are you directly affected by the leader’s mistakes? Are you sharing privileged information?
If you’re speaking on behalf of someone, make sure you have that person’s permission before doing so. Being a third party in a situation you’re not directly part of could muddy the waters and make a solution harder to reach.
Also, be cognizant of your own mistakes. If you’re confronting someone about a mistake you yourself have made, be aware of how that might change their response.
I’m always a fan of improv, but this is definitely not the time to go in without a plan. Don’t write out an entire script, but have some points planned out in your head ahead of time. If you appear uncertain, your credibility might be hurt.
Know your position well, be prepared to answer questions, and have examples.
No one likes to hear that they’re doing something wrong. Best case, they thank you for bringing it to their attention. But that’s not always going to be the case.
Be prepared for them to challenge what you’re saying. Be firm, but understanding. If they give reasons or excuses for a certain behavior, hear them out, listen, take into account what they’re saying. It doesn’t have to change your opinion, but you never want to hear that you got defensive while making your point.
Above all, be firm, be fair, and trust your gut.
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