Meetings at work can be an uncomfortable environment – many professionals feel this way. It may be because you’re shy, introverted, or you absorb more by listening to others in the room. You may also choose to defer to the leaders at the table.
It’s not just the environment, it may also be the situation. Is there someone in the meeting that always dominates the conversation not letting others get a word in edgewise? Whatever the case may be, sitting through another meeting frozen or inactive is a terrible feeling.
In order to get ahead it is often important that your voice be heard. You’ve prepped for the meeting, you’ve done your research, and now it’s time for you to be an active participant. Below are some simple strategies you can implement in your next meeting to help ease the anxiety and make yourself heard.
- Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters
Instead of interpreting your jitters (shaky hands, stomach doing somersaults, etc) as a sign that you’re inadequate, or not up to the task a hand, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests befriending your stress response, re-framing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best to the meeting.
- Ease Into It
Rather than arriving right before a meeting starts, head in early to familiarize yourself with the space and settle in. If your meeting is a teleconference, use this time to get comfortable with webinar controls, your mic, and webcam. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time which can feel socially fulfilling while also being less overwhelming.
- Commit to Speaking Early
It typically gets harder to enter the conversation as a meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety increases. Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to to speak up early. Set a simple strategy to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the meeting. It can be welcoming the attendees, presenting your main argument, asking a question, or offering an opinion on a new business proposal.
- Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up
You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up a coworker’s comment with a simple, “Great idea! I can see that working really well.”You can also focus on asking powerful questions. Especially if you consider yourself an introvert, you’re likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.
Another way powerful way to increase your impact and visibility even after the meeting wraps is by following up with an email to your boss summarizing key points raised, or better yet, providing a proposal for a new project sparked by the conversation. You’ll build up a reputation as someone who makes useful contributions and you’ll come to everyone’s mind more quickly when promotion time comes around. More importantly, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.
- Be the One to Take Action on “Next Steps”
Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.This is a great example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards behaviors you desire. You’ve committed yourself — now you’ll be more motivated and likely to follow through.
- Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing
Many people’s leadership instincts may not have been nurtured to their full potential in childhood, and subconscious insecurities can seep into our behavior to this day when it comes to speaking up. So how do you overcome old, outdated scripts holding you back from feeling confident about speaking up? It requires a deep-dive into your presumptions about self-worth and speaking up.
Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts such as, “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”? If you find yourself easily devastated by real or imagined negative feedback when you express your ideas, consider that you may be reverting back to an immature identity when your self-esteem was more contingent on other people’s (especially that of authority figures’) opinions.
When you have a point to make yet find undermining thoughts creeping in, thank your inner-critic for trying to do it’s job by keeping you protected. Fear can signal you’re saying something of significance. Seize the moment. Stop playing small. Remember, you’re part of your organization because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.
You’ve got a lot to offer — now it’s time to let everyone know it.
This content was originally published on The World of Psychology by Melanie Wilding, LMSW