Are you an introvert who has great ideas but fails to voice them at meetings? Have you given up on trying to contribute company rhetoric? You aren’t alone. Many introverts have difficulty expressing themselves at meetings and need to find ways to speak up. Here are six steps to take in order to be heard.
Speak with conviction
I was talking with a colleague who complained that she is never heard at staff meetings. She said she suggests ideas but is basically ignored. I could only nod in agreement because I have witnessed her at meetings, and concluded that her ideas are solid, but she doesn’t speak with conviction.
I too have not been heard. I recall suggesting an idea that was ignored, only to be brought up by someone else and accepted. I didn’t speak with conviction at that time. Perhaps I didn’t think it was a good idea. Well, I guess it was.
Introverts are notorious for not being heard. In part it’s their fault; they’re disinclined to speak when the moment is right. They allow the talkers, e.i. extraverts, do most of the talking. It’s not that introverts don’t have great ideas; they just don’t express them enough.
Don’t think too long before you speak
No one likes to offer up lousy ideas. It only makes them look inept and it can draw disapproval from the group. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what’s being said and choose the right moment to weigh in.
Be concise, yet factual, with your ideas. Add value and don’t speak just to speak. Extraverts are often accused of speaking before thinking and the result is the consumption of valuable air space. When you have your thoughts formulated, you’re more like to speak intelligently.
Depending on the group etiquette, or lack thereof, wait for a break in the conversation and then offer your idea. Some groups follow Parliamentary Procedure, where one person speaks at a time uninterrupted. However, it’s been my experience that that rule gets thrown out the window soon after a meeting begins.
If no etiquette exist and everything is fair in love and war, by all means break into the conversation when there’s the briefest pause. Don’t raise you hand; just clear your throat and speak loudly to be heard. Continue to maintain a steady audible tone without shouting and becoming belligerent.
State it twice if necessary
If you feel that your idea hasn’t been noted by those leading the meetings, restate it at another time during the meeting. I’ll say, “I’d like to reiterate what I said regarding….” Sometimes the group needs to hear you twice for anyone to digest it, particularly if the meeting is getting lively.
Related to the aforementioned suggestion, you may have to repeat your point if you’ve been interrupted (not uncommon during an unruly meeting). You’ll know your idea has been noted when others in the group comment on it…good or bad.
Compliment others for their ideas
Great relationships involve give and take. The same applies to meetings, where your goal is to maintain relations with your colleagues. One way to do this is by offering compliments for your colleagues who deliver strong ideas.
A simple nod of your head when you make eye contact with your colleagues will suffice. Or you can verbalize your compliment and maybe add to their point. Your colleague will appreciate your acknowledgement and reciprocate when you provide your ideas.
Stand if necessary
As a last resort you may have to stand to be heard. This may seen as aggressive, but if you feel your idea is important and needs to be heard, don’t be hesitant to stand. People in the room will notice you immediately and their attention will be directed toward you.
Use this ploy as a last resort, though. If you make a habit of this, you may come across as confrontational. Once you have made you point, thank the group for their attention.
My colleague is very intelligent and has a lot to add to the conversation, but she doesn’t understand the rules of dialog in a company. I not only refer to extraverts who like to dominate air time; it’s people who simply don’t care what others have to say.
If these are the rules of company meetings, it’s up to people like my colleague to assert her opinions even if she feels it’s rude or inappropriate. Let me restate what I said earlier: all’s fair in love and company meetings.
Photo: Flickr, Alok Chaudhari