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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6 responses to “3 Ways To Get Yourself Heard In Meetings”

  1. Colin Smith says:

    Hi Jennifer, you make some good points, in particular, putting your hand up, pointing it as well as opening one’s mouth slightly.

    My point is that these days a meeting is a competition or a fight to get heard. Why is it that way, and how could it be changed for the better? Not just for all participants but for the outcomes.

    How about a meeting where everyone is able to think for themselves, everyone gets their time to talk and to share their thinking, and that when anyone is speaking, everyone else listens. Listen fully and deeply, giving the speaker their full attention, and does not interrupt them. The speaker, in return for the others listening, agrees to keep to the point and to be succinct in their response.

    To know you are not going to be interrupted means the mind can relax and being relaxed improves the quality of the thinking.

    Colin

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I’d love that to happen Colin and indeed I’ve been in the occasional well-chaired meeting where it has. But I’ve also been in plenty where the ‘rules of the game’ aren’t set out and it turns into a free-for-all.

  2. Denis Kaye says:

    I think part of the problem is that too few meetings are well-organised and, in particular, too few are chaired well. A good chairperson will ensure that everyone can and does contribute whatever their style. Sadly chairmanship is not widely recognised as a skill worth developing.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I agree Denis. I think that Colin is proposing how it would happen in an ideal world, but often it’s the chairperson who lets the extroverts take over.

  3. Helen Wormald says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    As an introvert I have obviously over thought the blog 🙂 and I find it very powerful when I do speak because I only speak if it adds value to the discussion or directs the discussion to the reason why we are giving up valuable time in a working day to attend a meeting. On occasions this has completely flawed the extroverts in the room as often they allow themselves to go off track and before you know it the meeting has overrun or achieved little. This does take energy and often requires a coffee to recharge but definitely worth the effort.

    If we get used to utilising the positives of all our contacts/colleagues then working relationship can be more effective and people focusing on peoples strengths rather than weaknesses even if they are only perceived.

    A workforce of only introverts or extroverts would have similar challenges, valuing peoples contributions is the main focus and will allow the shyer quieter introverts to share their wisdom.

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