Point to Ponder:

One of the most common traits of effective leaders is their ability to effectively communicate in any situation.

While interning for a minor league sports team during graduate school, I heard rumblings one afternoon that civil rights icon Rosa Parks was in the building. Our offices were in the civic center, and she was coming through Tallahassee for a brief appearance. The head coach, a Canadian man who had been alive when Mrs. Parks defiantly—and famously—spoke up for her rights on a city bus in 1955, was determined to see her.

“I’m going to see if I can meet her,” he exclaimed and headed out the door.

I remember thinking, “I want to go too! But who am I? I’m just an intern—a 21-year-old student. I don’t want to bother the coach with this. I would love to meet Mrs. Parks, but I don’t want to bother her, either. I’m sure she doesn’t have time to stop and talk to random strangers.”

About 45 minutes later, the coach excitedly and proudly walked back into the office. “I met her!” he said. “And got a photo too.” Then he looked at me. “You should have come with me.” My heart sank. What was I thinking? I thought. If only I’d spoken up. There isn’t much I regret in my life, but this moment is one.

I challenge you to speak up. Too often, we bury our voices out of fear—irrational fear about what we have the right to ask for, what others will think, or how they will respond. Whether you need to speak up by asking for what you want, defending something you believe in, or expressing your feelings, know that speaking up is about honoring what you know to be true for you. It’s the reason I wrote the book Why Not You?—to help you raise your awareness of the ways in which doubt causes you to hesitate so that you can be intentional about defeating it.

The longer you bury your own voice, the more frustrated and angry you become. Are there areas in your life in which you’ve been silent too long? If so, how could you respectfully and authentically allow your voice to emerge? Whether speaking up means asking for help or letting someone know a boundary has been crossed, seize the moment to let your voice be heard.