Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago · 5 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Renée 🐝 blog
How to Speak Your Mind and Not Piss People Off

How to Speak Your Mind and Not Piss People Off

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Much of my work as a public relations and communications professional involved creating concise messages and teaching business leaders how to convey the best messages to various audiences. My friend, Graham Edwards recently posted a buzz about the importance of speaking up, noting that it is a catalyst for change. It generated a lot of discussion around shyness and negative consequences. Clearly, not everyone is comfortable to say what they really think, particularly at work where speaking your mind can get you on the bad side of your boss. There is certainly an art to being able to voice a potentially unpopular opinion and part of that is being able to choose the right time, method and audience. People tend to listen to what you have to say through their own filters which explains why some people are always offended while others are never offended. In a one-on-one conversation, it is easier to read your audience than if you are in a room full of people. It is definitely important to know when to speak as well as how to speak so you that you are heard and respected regardless of agreement. Here are some things to consider before you decide to voice your opinions.

Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.
- Jack Kerouac

When should you voice your opinion?

I am a pretty non-confrontational person by nature, but I will say what needs to be said if doing so will make a difference. There are times to speak and times to pass on the opportunity. Who should you not bother giving an opinion to? Generally speaking, anyone for whom your opinion will not matter or those who are incapable of being rational (even temporarily). They are as follows:

Narcissists: Narcissists are only interested in their own opinions and those that are in agreement with their own. They have no emotional capacity to care about anyone else’s feelings and your attempts to reason with them will likely be seen as offensive, if not completely stupid. They also tend to twist the meaning of your words into something you did not intend so that they can make you look worse than them. Anything you say that makes them angry can cause rage. If you are not inclined to put up with that drama, say nothing. Sometimes it’s better to just know that you are right. We don’t always have to prove it to everyone.

The Closed Minded: If the person on the receiving end is not inclined to listen, then don’t bother. People who are so committed to their opinions that they are incapable of hearing another side, will never accept what you have to say. A perfect example of this is when certain religious groups come knocking at your door to proselytize. If you do the same to them, nobody will be converted. It is only when one side is open to listening that opinions can be changed.

The Angry: Angry people are not in a position to listen. Never push anyone to listen to your side while they are in a heightened state of anger. It is pointless and will only cause an escalation of anger. Pick your moments carefully.

It's one thing to say, 'I don't like what you said to me and I find it rude and offensive,' but the moment you threaten violence in return, you've taken it to another level, where you lose whatever credibility you had.
- Salman Rushdie

How can you make your point without being offensive?

Avoid accusations: When expressing your opinions, never accuse the other side of having ill intentions. Nothing creates hostility more than inflammatory communication. Being accusatory will cause your opponent to shut you out.

Avoid character assassinations: Nobody will ever respond well to you if you insult them. Calling people names or telling people what their “problem” is, is really just another way to create hostility. Like I mentioned above, angry people don’t listen, so don’t say anything to anger people, even if you think they deserve it.

Ask, don’t tell: Rather than telling people what you think, try framing your opinion in a question. “Wouldn’t it be better if we…?” is a more respectful way of inviting discussion and allowing your thoughts to be heard than telling people what they should or should not do. Let’s face it. People like choices and nobody ever really likes to be told what to do.

Be as neutral as possible: I’m not sure if it’s the Canadian in me or the writer in me, but being emotionally attached to your opinions (in other words, being opinionated) will cause you to close your mind to the opinions of others. This prevents dialogue and nobody will listen to you or take you very seriously if you are unwilling to do the same.

Never say the other person is wrong: Everyone is entitled to their opinion and their ideas stem from their creativity, so when you tell people they are wrong, they tend to get defensive. Respect is a fundamental element of effective communication. Directly telling people that they are wrong is no way to convince people that you are right.

Don’t threaten or intimidate: Bullies and narcissists love to threaten and intimidate to get their way. You may gain some unwilling compliance this way, but it will be short lived because threats cause resentment and anger. Do you really need enemies?

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.
- Bob Marley

What else do I need to consider in order to have my opinions heard?

Be a good example: As mentioned above, respect is the foundation for effective communication. People listen to people they respect. If you have a habit of showing respect for others, being trustworthy and honest, then your thoughts and opinions will matter enough to at least be considered.

Be confident: If you have something important to say, then state it with confidence. A wavering voice and a red face will be interpreted as weakness and a lack of commitment to your beliefs. You will not be taken seriously, if you do not take yourself seriously.

Lower the resonance of your voice: High pitched, squeaky voices are not pleasant to the ear. Try speaking from the diaphragm rather than the throat or nose. Deep, clear voices command more respect and get attention.

Speak clearly but don’t raise your voice: You don’t need to be loud to be heard. Enunciate without exaggerating your speech. Be loud enough to be heard, but don’t let yourself be seen as overbearing. Confident people do not yell and yelling will not command respect.

Look people in the eye: Nothing says untrustworthy like not looking people in the eye. A sincere and confident message needs eye contact.

Use confident body language: Your body language can really give you away, so practice a confident stance. Stand straight with your shoulders pinned back, your hips forward and arms at your side. Don’t put them on your hips (that’s bossy and confrontational), and don’t fold your arms across your chest (that's closed mindedness).

Don’t be a whiner: Dale Carnegie advised people to never condemn, criticize or complain. If you are known for these habits, then you will struggle to be liked, respected and heard. Nobody ever cares what a constant complainer has to say.

For those who have difficulty speaking their mind, it is important to remember that your opinions, thoughts and feelings are important, too. How you treat others will directly affect how people will perceive your expression of opinion. If you are essentially a good, respectful person, then you needn’t worry about how you will be perceived. Expect that people will respect your feelings and they most likely will.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others!

Are you tired of wanting things to be different? Do you accept that your thoughts sometimes hold you back? Would it help you to have an accountability partner? Would you like some help setting goals and getting things done? Ask about my new flat fee accelerated coaching program. For a flat fee of just $997 you can access unlimited one-on-one coaching for a full year. My Action Focused Express Coaching program is revolutionary and guaranteed to get results!

 Renée Cormier is a certified coach and facilitator on a mission to show people how changing their thinking changes their lives. Contact Renée to learn how to quickly move forward and achieve growth in business and all other areas of life. Renée happily shares her business and personal development expertise through a variety of training and coaching programs that create unsurpassed value for her clientele.

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Renée 🐝 Cormier

4 years ago #39

Thank you, Claire L Cardwell!

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #38

Just re-read this one Ren\u00e9e \ud83d\udc1d Cormier - great post!

Milos Djukic

5 years ago #37

Kudos Ren\u00e9e \ud83d\udc1d Cormier for this article. A must read for all social media users!

Paul Walters

6 years ago #36

Ren\u00e9e Cormier Hmm, must remember to re - read this before any confrontation!!!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #35

Thanks for sharing this, Claire Cardwell!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #34


Lisa Gallagher

6 years ago #33

This article will be tweeting! :))

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #32

You're a pretty level headed and articulate dude. I am sure you have no problem voicing opinions and being taken seriously. Thanks for the comment and share. Always appreciated. :)

Graham🐝 Edwards

6 years ago #31

This is great Ren\u00e9e Cormier... As I read through your post I found myself working through a mental check list... good at some, pretty good at others and a could to work on. Thanks! I think this is something that anyone who leads people should read.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #30

It thrills me that you like it that much. Thank you, Sharon!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #29

Thank you so much, Lisa. I am really pleased you like it. Thank you, also, for sharing it. :)

Lisa Gallagher

6 years ago #28

Ren\u00e9e Cormier, this buzz should go viral. You spoke to many who are non-confrontational and would prefer to find solutions through means which do not cause discourse. You made so many valid points that I believe many would agree with. Thank you for taking the time to write such a well thought out buzz.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #27

Thank you, Sara. I'm glad you are a part of it!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #26

Ha! That's why people pay me the big bucks, James O'Connell! :)

Sara Jacobovici

6 years ago #25

You took on a complex topic and tackled it courageously and with conviction Ren\u00e9e Cormier. Thanks for your buzz and being a catalyst to an interesting discussion.

Sara Jacobovici

6 years ago #24

You took on a complex topic and tackled it courageously and with conviction Ren\u00e9e Cormier. Thanks for your buzz and being a catalyst to an interesting discussion.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #23

Thanks for sharing this buzz, James O'Connell!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #22

You sure got that right, CityVP Manjit. I think I will check out that website about logical fallacies and share on social media. :)

CityVP Manjit

6 years ago #21

In a social media world everything is opinion and social media extends the megaphone of broadcast to the smallest voice in the remotest part of the planet. We are not simply receiving a tsunami of opinion but we are active agents in creating that tsunami - and then we begin to define expectations, taboos, conditions and rules around the flow of that opinion. So here I come along writing my opinion and people as their want or way will be, will give an opinion of that opinion. When I entered the world wide web, no one talked about "social media", they talked about Tim Berners-Lee giving away for free that protocol that has enabled this freedom and flow of opinion to be exercised on the world-wide web. Social media that has arisen since is one part marketing, one part opinion and one part tribalism. It is a lot of things to lots of people but I don't really want to focus on social media. I am interested in pursuing the world wide web as an individual learning lab and still continue to see learning media to be a distinctly different way or mindset than social media. Learning media is not me selling everyone on my learning, it is an examination of my own opinion and it is individual. That I often get dragged into social media is how socially engineered it has become in our lives and extends us into all sorts of media circus. Will I watch the US debate? No, tonight I would rather learn about logical fallacies for I know nothing about that - but so much about Clinton and Trump. Social media has become an extension of poor traditional media.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #20

I'm glad you found this post to be valuable, Jared. The message will serve you in all of your relationships. Thanks for sharing this. I appreciate your support!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #19

Thanks for the feedback, Karen. I am a former educator by profession and my natural inclination to teach people things does colour my content. This is a hefty topic and needs to be given some length in order to have value. 1300 words may seem lengthy to you, but content marketing experts consider that to still be a bit too short for both SEO and readership purposes. Your input is appreciated, just the same.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #18

Thanks for sharing, John White, MBA!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #17

Thanks for sharing this post, Milos Djukic.

Harvey Lloyd

6 years ago #16

Great post on managing and self control of the opinion. Opinions are motivated by something. If someone's opinion invokes a need for me to share mine, i keep this in mind. If risk is involved i want to listen and find out their motivation for the opinion. A lot of times in seeking the motivation i find that i was just that small rock in the wheelbarrow that tipped it over. When i need to move someone's opinion to a different spot, my ears are the finest radar. I want to hear all that went into and up to creating the motivation. Then i can share my opinion with the hopes it moves theirs. I liked the few characteristics that we should avoid sharing our opinion. Seeking the motivation for an opinion is a good way to defuse things. However, sometimes it is good to just let go of the auto-emotional response, it is cleansing. But clean up may be necessary. I call this pandora's box. Once you rip the lid off you tend to go until the box is empty. Never a pretty site.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #15

Sounds, good! Thanks, Jim. LOL

Jim Murray

6 years ago #14

I don't do long comments on pieces I really like. So I'm done.

Jim Murray

6 years ago #13

I don't do long comments on Ppieces I really like. So I'm done.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #12

That is right, Kevin. This is for everyone. We tend to think about it being more relevant to politics because the current political environment has given a voice to the outrageously offensive, and juxtaposed to that is the other extreme where anything you say will be scrutinized for political correctness. Tread softly!

Kevin Pashuk

6 years ago #11

Hmmnnn... something weird.... I was sure I made a comment and then it disappeared. I'm going to print a copy of this and use it as a checklist while I watch the debate this evening... Lowest score wins. but seriously, this is not just applicable to politicians, but to each of us to guide our communication.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #10

Thanks for sharing this, Kevin Pashuk!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #9

Yes, the saboteur is alive ans well in all of us. PR pros always prepare key messages, rehearse responses and advise clients to take a short pause before answering questions for that reason. It is very easy to fly off the handle with no thought to the consequences. Uncoached spokespeople tend to put themselves in hot water quite often. An unwillingness to take direction from those who specialize in PR and communications is what keeps guys like Trump, Robert Ford (while he was alive) and so many others in the news.

don kerr

6 years ago #8

Balanced and thorough perspective Ren\u00e9e Cormier. Yesterday, while attending a presentation by Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence, there was one comment which stood out for me and this relevant to your thesis. Chamine writes and speaks about how we are all inhabited by Saboteurs and Sages. Our Saboteur reacts primarily when our limbic system is fully engaged while the Sage emanates from our medial prefrontal cortex. The Saboteur emits cortisol throughout our body while the Sage sends endorphins coursing throughout our system. Anyway, here's one of the small things I took away: the Saboteur arises when we feel judged. This can happen so easily when in a confrontation - mild or extreme, face-to-face or remotely via social media. It is so freakin' easy on social media with the relative anonymity it provides to let the Saboteur rage away. We see examples of it every single day on beBee (yes, even here!) and the entire US presidential race appears to have devolved to a cage match of Saboteurs. Here's the thing to consider when responding: Is our commentary or action something we would choose for ourselves? Are we willing to let ill-will and rancor hi-jack our sensibility? If the answer is NO then we have let loose our Saboteur and little good will arise. We can't kill our Saboteur but we can reduce his/her impact through acknowledging its presence, exploring it with curiosity and finally accepting it presence.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #7

Only, Renee, if we truly believe in what we think... and, of course, think that what we think is important. Personally, I think that greater Toronto is one of the best urban areas of the world to live in --- but I really don't care if anyone else believes that or not. I also believe that the vast potential for good in worldwide social media consists of free and open exchanges of ideas and opinions, unfettered by commercial and personal agendas, and free of disguised majority bullying in the name of harmony. Unfortunately, the former these two beliefs, the one about which I don't care much, would be the far easier of the two, of which to convince others. But that may be a digression to the soap box. So to get back to your question, no, sometimes it is neither about being heard and respected, nor about gaining agreement. Sometimes it is about simply going public in front of one's conscience, or one's god, or the universe... whatever. Sometimes it is about simply not remaining silent in the face of something one believes is wrong. Granted, you might legitimately question whether anything on social media rises to that level. Maybe not. But that tells us something about social media as a way of life, not about ourselves. Cheers!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #6

You are right, Phil. Life is not all about winning friends and influencing people, and we do need to stand up for what is right, regardless of what others think. I guess as a non-combative Canadian, I tend to see the world in terms of not causing unnecessary conflict. I, personally, don't mind being unpopular, and so I will say what I think if the occasion calls for it, but I'd rather not end up in an argument over my beliefs. This is really more about being heard and respected, than gaining agreement, although, we all secretly want people to agree with our thinking, don't we?

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #5

Renee, this seems to me sound advice... and very Canadian, at that. I notice it speaks, in the main. to personal face-to-face interaction, but seems to me to hold important lessons for written exchanges, as well. One point, if I may. You say, "It is only when one side is open to listening that opinions can be changed." That is true, but implies that the purpose of interaction is persuasion, that is, changing the other side's opinion to align more with yours, or if you are representing a client, more in line with the opinion desired by that client. However, sometimes the purpose of speaking out in interchange or otherwise is simply to advance a movement toward what, for want of a better term, we refer to as truth. And in some cases, we speak out with no hope of persuading people to incline more to our view(s), but because sometimes it is necessary to go "on the record" about something we believe is wrong or potentially harmful. Dale Carnegie notwithstanding, life is not just about winning friends and influencing people. Cheers!

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #4

Thank you, Irene. I agree. It is always best to leave your ego out of the equation.

Pascal Derrien

6 years ago #3

every now and again the truth seekers have to be reminded of a few home truths too :-)

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #2

What do you think, Graham Edwards?

Renée 🐝 Cormier

6 years ago #1

What do you think, Graham Edwards?

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