Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Open Your Mouth in a Meeting


These pieces of advice might sound familiar:

Speak your mind, share your thoughts, and make sure your opinions are heard. But, at the same time, be open to new ideas, give others a chance to talk, and listen just as much as you speak.

When it comes to voicing your opinions or just keeping mum, you’ll frequently run across quite a bit of conflicting advice. So, how can you know when you should grab the mic and when you’re better off holding your tongue?

Ask yourself these three questions before opening your mouth, and you’re sure to determine which route is best.

1. Does This Directly Involve Me?

We all know those people who constantly chime in with their two cents without ever being prompted. Their unwanted commentary is not only unnecessary, but also a little annoying.

Needless to say, you don’t want to be the person who constantly sticks his or her nose in business where it doesn’t belong. So, before speaking up with your idea or suggestion, take some time to consider whether or not this is even something you should be involved in.

If it’s an issue that directly affects you or your team? You have some room to stand up and speak your mind. But, if it has little to no impact on you—or anyone even relatively close to you, for that matter? You’re better off keeping your mouth shut.

2. Do I Have Something Valuable to Contribute?

Here’s the important thing to remember about speaking up, regardless of the context it’s happening in: You need to have a purpose. You should be voicing your thoughts because you know you have something of value to add to the conversation.

It’s easy to tell the difference between those people who ramble on and on simply because they like the sound of their own voices, and those who contribute only when they have something important to say.

So, if you know that your suggestion could really improve someone’s project or save your team a lot of time, you should definitely go ahead and share it. But, if there’s no obvious importance in what you have to say, save yourself (and everyone else) the headache and keep it to yourself.

3. What Will Happen if I Don’t Say Something?

When it comes to communicating, it’s all too easy to forget about consequences. But, that’s an incredibly important element to consider when deciding between voicing your thoughts and staying quiet.

Take a moment to think about how things would play out if you kept your thoughts to yourself. Would someone charge ahead with incorrect information or a plan that could be significantly improved?

Or, would things move forward smoothly—although, not necessarily the way you would’ve done them?

No, you don’t have a crystal ball to help you predict future consequences. But, you should be able to get a pretty decent sense of how everything will pan out by just taking a little bit of time to think about it. That information alone can help you determine whether you’re obligated to speak up or it’s wiser to restrain yourself.

Knowing when to voice your opinions and when to hold your tongue can be tricky. And, there’s a relatively fine line to walk there—you don’t want to be a steamroller, but you also don’t want to be a doormat.

Ask yourself these three questions next time you’re in that predicament, and you’ll be able to speak up (or shut up) with confidence.

More From Inc.