How to Advocate for Your Ideas When You're a Reserved Person


The title of this post would also serve as one of the chapters of my memoir, if I were to write a one. Since I was very young, timidity has pretty much defined my existence. However, I don’t entirely view it as a negative characteristic. In fact, I think it’s contributed to my ability to observe and notice things around me — a trait I regard as essential to being a designer.

Still, I recognize that the ability to communicate ideas is an equally necessary part of the equation. Here’s a little guide on how, over the years, I’ve been able to slowly teach myself how to give voice to my ideas effectively:

Know That You Don't Always Have to Speak

It was Shakespeare that said, “Listen to many, speak to few.” The truth is, while some may argue the effectiveness of communication’s role in the ideation process and collaboratively (and verbally) brain dumping, everyone communicates and processes ideas differently. Despite being told quite often that I should speak up more, it’s always been my prerogative to allow myself to process things in a way that comes natural to me — quietly, and within the confines of my head and my head only.

At the same time, whenever I feel strongly about a certain idea, I always make sure to remind myself what a loss it would be should I decide not to speak. I find that when I am compelled enough to speak, it’s not so difficult.

This is the perfect segue to my next point…

Ask Yourself, What Is It About This Idea That Compels Me to Speak

Intention, in my humble opinion, is the most important consideration of communication. Once you know why you feel compelled to speak, you’ll be able to better advocate for what it is you have to say.

Ask yourself:

  • Is what I have to say something new?

  • Interesting?

  • Original?

Write down What You Have to Say Before You Say It

It’s in my experience that outlining main ideas and supporting points on paper helps provide the structure needed to succinctly express ideas.

At times, it’s a quick jot-down to help structure my words before I raise my hand. (This ensures that what comes out of my mouth is not some sort of verbal paella.) Other times, it’s an actual outline, with multiple bullet and margin levels, to rehearse before a big presentation. Every single time, at any level of fidelity, it’s helped.

A Slight Re-Posturing

I’m not glorifying Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED talk on power posing, but I’m also not rejecting it. That said, I’ve noticed a small difference in the way I communicate when I remember to sit up straight. This slight (and literal) boost makes all the difference.

Image from @1080mhz