This is How One Quiet Introvert Learned to Speak Up in Meetings

introvertEveryone’s been stuck in meetings that are dominated by one or two people. They’re comfortable and confident and say anything that comes to mind. Meanwhile, you, the introvert, take great notes, analyze remarks the others make, and come up with some great ideas for solving the issues being discussed. The only problem is that those ideas remain stuck in your head because you aren’t contributing to the conversation. Don’t you want to be heard?

Full disclosure  … your favorite SkillPath blogger dude is a big-time introvert, especially when it comes to speaking up in meetings. My blog writing partner, Brenda, is an extrovert and one of those people that can walk into a room with 500 strangers and make 15 great friends within the first hour. In meetings, Brenda is never at a loss for words, but I used to suffer meeting laryngitis. I could go several meetings in a row without uttering a word. Yet, I had great ideas that nobody ever heard.

While you’ll never be mistaken for the office extrovert, and being a loudmouth isn’t in your nature, it’s critical that you speak up. After all, you’re in that meeting for a reason. Your experience, historical knowledge and fresh perspective are useless if you don’t get involved and contribute. However, for whatever reason, sometimes it’s hard to be heard.

If the fact that you’re an introvert … or just shy … has held you back at times, here are eight ways to break through your meeting jitters and get heard:

1. Review the agenda and prepare to address something

Before the meeting, scan the agenda and choose a topic that is important to you and think about your viewpoint. Giving this some thought before the meeting will help you feel prepared. Write down your points so you remember them.

2. Stop censoring yourself

Share your thoughts and ideas without over-editing them. At least once per meeting, practice by saying something that pops into your mind, so you get comfortable joining in. Don’t hesitate.

3. Ask questions

Use your knowledge and experience to ask for clarification on someone else’s ideas or comments. Often, they’ll appreciate the fact you’re interested in knowing more about their views and all of a sudden. you’ve picked up an ally in the room.

4. Practice by making one or two inconsequential comments

Sometimes just agreeing or supporting someone else’s comments with your own observations is a good way to speak up. These remarks can add to the flow of the meeting: “I agree with what Bob said because I had this same experience and this is what happened to me.”

5. Be succinct

Make your point clearly by keeping it brief. If you have a complicated point, let people know up front: “There are 3 reasons I don’t think this will work. First ….” This tactic will help keep people from interrupting you.

6. Decide how often you want to speak

Whether it’s once or three times, setting this goal will motivate you to participate. Maybe include something you’ve planned in advance, a question, and one idea that just pops into your head.

7. Don’t defer to someone else or assume their ideas carry more weight

This is a tricky area because sometimes the owner or CEO of the company is at the table and they often have the final say in most matters. Naturally, their opinion carries more weight than yours. However, even in this situation, your opinion is still valid. Remember that management likes it when employees bring them well-researched solutions to problems within the organization.  So if you have something to say … say it.

In any other situation, if you’re intimidated by someone in the room (like the company extrovert), don’t automatically defer to that person by saying something like, “I think this, but Theresa has much more experience in this area, so maybe we should ask her.” I’ll repeat what I said previously just so it sinks into your brain … your perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s! Your thoughts are important when helping to flush out the best decisions.

8. Speak up first

When you express your viewpoint first, you’re less likely to start doubting yourself. If you wait, it’s often hard to break into the discussion.

The more you speak up in meetings, the easier it gets. Never forget that your unique perspective matters.

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