How to Speak at Work

Here is the next entry in my continuing series on classical advice for the workplace.  
Prudent Words

We have all heard some form of the maxim, What you think, you say. What you say, you do. Well, we are at that mid point. Cultivating the ability to say the right words, to speak well, will directly inform who we are and how we act in our careers.

"Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may
hear from others twice as much as we speak."
“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

Epictetus points to the first step in speaking well here. In essence his advice is to speak less. No one likes a know-it-all, and we are all familiar with that particular person who just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut during meetings and planning sessions. (If you aren't, it is probably because you’re it. Note: Pay specific attention to this section!). In contrast, most organizations also have the quiet and thoughtful man. The one who doesn’t speak up often, but when he does, everyone listens.

The goal is to become the latter. By rushing in to speak up you do not allow your reason to fully digest what is going on, what the full parameters of the discussion entail. Therefore your comments are more opinion or repetition, not suggestion or evaluation.  A man needs to fully listen to what others are saying before he jumps into the fray.

Try this at your next meeting or informal business discussion. Say as little as possible; just listen. You’ll be surprised about what you may learn. Things like others’ true motivations, hidden agendas and possible leanings all become much more evident when you take a step back. Then when you do join in the discussion, your comments will be that much more targeted and useful.
The final entry in this series will come on Small Business Saturday.