3 Ways To Get Yourself Heard In Meetings
I once read a blog that put forward the view that extroverts are ruling business because they say a lot and speak with confidence – whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Whereas the introverts of the business world, who may well have more to offer, keep schtum and end up being sidelined.
(There’s a lot more to being an extrovert or introvert than how much you speak, but we’ll go with their generalisation for the purposes of this post.)
As an extrovert who’s always been happy to speak up in meetings (hopefully conveying I know what I’m talking about) I’d have to agree. As the saying goes, the squeakiest wheel gets the oil – or in this case, the attention of the other people around the table.
It doesn’t make it right or fair – how much of life is – but it happens. So how can the introverts fight back?
Restoring the balance
If you’re an introvert who’s worked in business a while, I’m going to take a guess and say that, at some point, someone has said to you, “You should speak up more.” (They may also have said, “You need to be more self-assured” because introversion is often mistaken for a lack of confidence.)
But while simply speaking up more may be the most direct approach, I’m going to take another guess that the reason you don’t is because it’s too direct. So instead I’d like to offer you three subtler ways to try and restore the balance and get yourself heard among the extroverts:
1. Speak up, even if it’s to say nothing
From what a lot of introverts have told me, sometimes the reason they don’t say anything is because they feel like everything’s already been said. But it’s still worth pitching in so that people know you’re there.
One of my clients came up with the phrase: “My thoughts have already been covered by other people around the table, so I’m happy with what’s proposed.”
2. Sell the benefit
Like everything in personal branding, the aim is to educate others to see things the way you see them.
I’m going to make one more guess that, while some people (most likely extroverts) might see introversion through a negative lens, introverts themselves view it through a positive one – otherwise they’d be changing their behaviour.
So the trick here is to 1) pin down what those positives are and 2) point them out to people.
For instance, I once had a workshop attendee say, “I’m a very quiet person, but that’s a bad thing for a personal brand, isn’t it?” So I asked her, “Why are you quiet?” She answered, “Because I like to listen.” I asked her, “Why do you like to listen?” She answered, “Because I like to take everything in.” I asked her, “Why do you like to take everything in?” She answered, “Because I like to be fully informed before I make any suggestions.”
Well, hello! That sounds like something useful.
I proposed that the next time she went to a meeting where she was worried people might think she had nothing to add, she should drop that positive into the conversation early-doors. Something along the lines of, “I’m not going to speak much, because I’d rather sit here quietly and listen to all of you, so my decisions are fully informed.”
3. Check what you’re not saying
This one’s for when you definitely do want to say something.
A client whose personal brand was of the quiet, reflective sort told me she found it hard to get heard in meetings. I asked her to show me how she sat in those situations and she pushed her chair back slightly, leant back and placed her hands in her lap.
Everything she’d done said she was listening, not participating.
So first things first: change your body language so it’s in ‘ready to communicate’ mode.
- Pull your chair in.
- Place your arms on the table to own a bit of space.
- Lean forwards slightly.
- Make eye contact with the other people around the table and especially the person who’s currently talking.
- Raise your forearm up, so you’re resting on your elbow, to a 45˚ angle, whilst loosely pointing with your index finger.
- Then open your mouth slightly, as if you’re about to say something.
If that doesn’t get picked up on, I’d also suggest adding a verbal “May I say…?” at a decent volume. You’ll have a lot more chance of getting some airtime than if you stay in the listening pose.
Give it a try
I’m not saying that if the introverts of this world start doing those things us extroverts will entirely shut up and listen. (You can’t make a leopard change its spots.) But what I am saying is if you’re an introvert who deserves to be heard, think about giving those three tips a go.
If you’re an introvert, what do you think? Do us extroverts take over? How do you feel about that and what things do you already do to restore the balance? And if you’re an extrovert, what’s your view? Should the introverts just bite the bullet and speak up like we do?
I’d be really interested in both sides, so please do leave a comment below.
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