Career masterclass: Say what you want

Cat got your tongue? Learn how to get your point across - without causing consternation.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Conquer stage fright. Scared to speak up? List the consequences of keeping quiet: another late night covering lazy colleagues, moaning to your exasperated partner, a reputation as the office pushover. Still happy to suffer in silence?

Beat the backlash. Write down every challenge your words could provoke and how you would respond to each one. Practise your arguments and delivery with a friend till they're perfect.

Spell it out. Explain how you see the situation (I've taken on six new reports with no reward'), then be as specific as possible about what you want ('I'd like you to review my salary, please').

Keep it concise. Theorising, digressing and exaggerating are surefire ways to lose an audience.

Perfect your tone. Speak in a calm, confident voice and don't bully or be submissive. Ask questions like 'How do you think we can settle this?' to create momentum towards a resolution.

Empathise. Soften the blow of unpopular requests by showing you understand their pain: 'I know how disappointing it feels to be asked to rewrite your work.' We're more likely to agree with someone we feel is 'one of us'.

Believe in your message. If you don't, why should they?

Be fair. Pick a few sensible requests and be willing to negotiate. Saying what you want takes assertiveness and honesty; getting what you want takes diplomacy and collaboration.

Dangle the carrot. Identify a reward and focus on this as a possible outcome if the other person complies.

Pick your battles. Worried that emotion is clouding your judgement? Consult someone impartial and if you're told you're being unreasonable, keep quiet.

- The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99. Visit for further info about MindGym/MT masterclasses.

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