Sharing your expertise: When to speak and when to listen

If 2020 has shown us anything, it is the importance of understanding when to say something and when to stop and listen
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With all that is going on in the world, everyone is searching for expert advice and opinions and just about everyone has advice to give or an opinion to share.

As PR professionals, we laud thought leadership as an effective communications and expert positioning strategy to help our clients share their insights and expertise to increase visibility and become recognized industry leaders.

There is both opportunity and need for experts to share their perspectives and provide valuable and useful information to their stakeholders. And, for the most part, offering advice and sharing expertise is beneficial to enhancing one’s influence and reputation – until it isn’t. 

If 2020 has shown us anything, it is the importance of understanding when to say something and when to stop and listen. Social media makes it easy to join the conversation and give our two cents. We are naturally inclined to want to share our opinions when the world around us is offering theirs. But, we need to stop to think how the latest news headline actually relates to our work and if our expertise can truly help at this time. Undoubtedly there is a time, place and value in sharing our advice and opinions but before hitting ‘Post’ or ‘Reply,’ we must ask ourselves, “Will my perspective valuably progress the narrative and support a resolution or will I just be creating unnecessary noise?”

Jimmy Fallon exemplified the latter point of creating redundant chatter in true comical fashion (it’s worth the watch if you need a good laugh – and who doesn’t these days?). Many of us are eager to share what’s on our mind and include our voice in the story but are we needlessly drowning out the voices of those with true and actual authority on the topic? Although we mean well, are we actually doing harm?

“The Art of Conversation lies in listening.” – Malcom Forbes

Instead of jumping in, we should first listen and seek to understand. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” said Stephen Covey. We saw this play out with this summer’s “Blackout Tuesday” campaign where so many well-meaning supporters posting black squares to their Instagram feeds frustrating organizers and diluting any real progress because the posts lacked information, follow-up, or true action and drowned out the voices of those with something important to say. While the campaign was well meaning with the hope of furthering education and understanding, it became a superfluous, superficial trend with little value.

So, when should we share our expertise and when should we stay quiet? Often, the answer is clear. When there is a pandemic afoot, if you are an epidemiologist, please speak up – often. If you’re not, please don’t.  

How to know when to share your expertise?

It is perfectly understandable to want to add your voice to the conversation – after all most of us truly do want to help. But, consider these questions first before diving in:

  • Are you really contributing to the conversation in a positive way?
  • Is your perspective or advice unique?
  • Will what you recommend result in an improvement for those facing the issue?
  • Will your opinions be valuable to your audience in a way they could not find elsewhere?
  •  Are you genuinely worried about silent complicity or do you just want to say something?

Before hitting ‘Post’ or sharing your thoughts, it is always worth asking these questions of yourself. You might just find that your advice is exactly what needs to be shared at that moment and that you are the one who ought to be giving it. But if not, then be respectful of those who should actually have the mic and give them your full attention. 

Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations which helps purpose-driven companies increase awareness and become sought-after for their work and expertise.

Categories: Business Insights, Management & Leadership