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How Do I Voice Out My Concerns Without Coming Off Rude?

by Nadira Ezrin. |

“Can I correct my boss when they make a mistake?”

“Can I confront my coworker who keeps stepping on my toes?”

“Can I challenge my friend’s insensitive jokes?”

“Can I tell the person I love the most of my deepest insecurities?”

A psychologist, Adam Galinsky, said these during his speech at a TED Conference. I believe every one of us has experienced hesitation on speaking up or being honest about something. Galinksy defined ‘low power double bind’ as a situation where when we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, and if we do speak up, we get punished or rejected.

We always want to give genuine opinions during crucial situations. However, we also need to understand that it’s not always easy for people to accept the truth as people tend to overreact when their ideas are being disputed—when in reality, the only way to improve something is to find and correct its flaws. Because of this, we end up keeping our concerns on the inside because we are afraid they might sound offensive.


Here are some ways to voice our concerns without coming off as rude:


1. Don't make it personal

If it is work-related, nothing personal should be involved at all. When your criticism becomes personal, the situation becomes hostile. Be careful with each word that is thrown out. For example, instead of saying “you are very slow in making progress”, change it to “it would be convenient for our team if our progress can be improved”.

Be specific on things you want to comment on. When we communicate with others, only 10% of what we communicate comes from the words we use. No good results will be shown if we make a biased criticism, as it will be seen as an attack on the individual. We don’t want the situation to get worse, right?


2. Enclose your opinions with compliments

When we speak up, people tend to get defensive and overreact because that's in our nature to. Thus, it is very important if we can compliment them to tone down the argument beforehand. It shows that we are actually paying attention to the whole situation first before voicing our opinions. Giving negative feedback can be tricky sometimes, but with some psychological know-how, the tightness of a situation can be fixed.


3. Plan and practice what you want to say

If you are that person who always offends people by saying “at least I’m being honest” or "no offense but..", you should practice your words first. Ask for an opinion from someone close to you, and be open about it. You can learn a lot by being observed. Come up with what to say and if they notice anything offensive or unpleasant in your words, you can ask them for their advise for you too. Using the right words and language is the key to flourishing relationships. With practice, you would know what and when to say the right things without being offensive.



4. Perspective-taking

Perspective-taking is not an easy task. According to Galinsky, a quick perspective-taking defuses a volatile situation. When we take someone else’s perspective, it allows us to be ambitious and assertive, but still likeable. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and wonder why they‘re doing this and that. Thus, our opinions might change after viewing the situation from their perspective. In addition, by doing this, we tend to be more understanding and considerate when problems arise.


5. Offer helpful suggestions

A criticism without suggestions is like telling someone that they’re doing something wrongly, but refusing to tell them how to do it the right way. When you give feedback to someone, it should always come with options to fix the mistake. When we give people options, it lowers their defenses, and they’re more likely to accept your feedback. Suggestions can come in the form of help too. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like the poster that you designed, it looks outdated”, change it to “I think the poster should look more fresh. I’ll help you find good latest samples of such designs”. Offering help is a good approach to speaking up about your concerns but with extra manners.



6. Practice what you preach

If you want people to accept your opinions, you too should do the same. Demonstrate your full commitment to criticism by accepting criticism as well when they come by your way. When we give feedback to others regarding the situation that we are involved in, always remember that we are fixing it for ourselves too.


Most people would rather not speak up because we think our criticism might be taken as an insult. But if we frame it correctly, the situation can be turned upside down and everything could turn out for the better. So if you wish to speak, always ask yourself—Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?


Good luck!

You may find out more about Nadira on her Instagram too.

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