Speak up!

Your opinions count too

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Kyla Tilton isn’t afraid to make her voice heard. As the former West Coast director of franchise support for Uniforms for America, she made that very clear. “There were contract negotiations with some vendors that I believed weren’t in the best interests of our franchisees,” says the 20-something Tilton. “I went to the executives in charge and expressed that I felt those deals were counterproductive and unfair.”

After registering her concerns, Tilton waited for a response. “They disagreed with my point of view and refused to take action,” she says. Unwilling to stay where her opinions weren’t taken into consideration, she left the company in 1996 to start KT Enterprises (www.kt-enterprises. com), an Atlanta-based marketing, event management and public relations firm.

“You’ve got to be vocal if you want to be respected in the workplace,” says Grace Cornish, Ph.D., a social psychologist based in New York City. Cornish says that you can’t allow other people’s perceptions to keep you from saying what’s on your mind. “If you do, you run the risk of appearing disinterested or looking like a doormat-two things you want to avoid at all costs in the office.”

For Tilton, expressing her opinion-though unpopular-was central to garnering the self-respect and confidence she needed to strike out on her own. “I felt good after speaking up even though I wasn’t able to change anything,” she says. “But at least I was able to let them know that my opinions counted too.”

For professionals and entrepreneurs alike, a strong vocal presence is a powerful asset in the marketplace. If you need to increase yours, consider the following pointers from Cornish:

  • Make sure your work is on the money. A clean attendance record and good performance evaluations will make your opinions shine that much brighter.
  • Know your stuff. It’s hard to argue with facts. “Do research so you have the factual ammunition to back up your personal insights,” asserts Cornish.
  • Check your total image. Whether you like it or not, you’re judged by your appearance. Dress and carry yourself in a way that will demand respect and lend credence to whatever you say.
  • Affirm yourself. It takes 21 days for a habit to set, says Cornish. So start telling yourself today that “what you have to say is important and worthwhile for others to hear.”