10.00 AM..You reach the meeting room on time. You smile and/or greet your colleagues and take a seat at the table as always. The meeting organizer dials the remote folks in and starts the meeting. The topic is one you are familiar with. Others start expressing their views. You feel like you should talk and say how you feel about the idea being proposed. But as you formulate your sentence, someone already says the same thing you want to say! You begin to speak..but your voice is not heard among the other voices that are stronger and louder. You give up and sink back into your seat. You feel frustrated, dejected and guilty to not have said anything. You have thoughts about what your colleagues are thinking of you..Will my boss hold this against me in my performance review..? This is the third meeting with my boss this week and I haven’t said anything. I am never going to speak up in these meetings..
Does this sound familiar? You know exactly how this situation feels. You’ve been there way too many times and are there in that chair on a regular basis…You tell yourself it won’t repeat at the next meeting, but again, it happens…Someone help me you scream inside your head..
What truly holds you back from speaking up? There are a myriad reasons that you can think of.
– I am shy
– I am introverted
– Fear of what others may think or say about you
– Fear that what you have to say is not of value
– Fear that what you have to say is not new
– Fear of disrespecting others (this is especially prevalent in certain cultures, where respect is shown to older folks and folks with more knowledge and power)
The fears are numerous but the key to overcoming them is a simple mindset shift.
The biggest secret to solving this problem is to take the focus of YOU!
When you have fears such as those listed above, it is because your focus is on YOU..all those thoughts swirling in your head are about you!!!
Instead, shift the focus to the PEOPLE YOU SERVE – meaning your clients, your organization, your team and the like. Change your mindset and step into the shoes of these people. Think about what they need and how your thoughts and ideas and opinions make a difference to them and why they need to be expressed to make that difference. When you shift the focus FROM you TO them, you no longer feel the pressure to formulate your sentences correctly. You no longer are worried about what others are thinking about what you say and how you say. No longer do you have to think about what value YOU add, instead think about the VALUE to these folks. Once you master this mindset, it brings a tremendous amount of relief and those fears magically disappear. Your passion and commitment to add value to the people you serve drives you and motivates you to speak up.
In addition to this strategy, a few other tips to help you speak up and earn your worth are:
- Going prepared to meetings: If you do your due diligence and go prepared to meetings, you will no longer find yourself fumbling to understand and participate in the conversation taking place in the room. Talk to others ahead of the meeting, read up, do what you need to do, to go in to the meeting well-prepared.
- Attend Toastmasters : Toastmasters is a great way to practice your actual communication skills. Especially the table topics part of the toastmasters session, is a great way to think and speak on your feet. (For those unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it is a international Non Profit Organization, that has clubs in cities all around us. The intent of this organization is to help people become confident speakers. The members meet on a regular basis to deliver prepared speeches and do impromptu speeches in the form of table topics sessions. Great orators and leaders have gone through the Toastmaster’s program and vouch for the value Toastmasters has added to their lives. Find one close to you and attend a couple trial sessions for free to get a feel for it.)
- Ask: Remember that even if you have nothing to add, asking clarifying questions can help the meeting as well. Sometimes the direction of a meeting can change, with a simple question. If you feel like the meeting has lost the direction it should be taking or people are all over the place , you can simply step up and bring the meeting focus back to the agenda on hand by asking a clarifying question.
- Quality over Quantity: You do not have to speak through the entire meeting. Its the quality of the content you add that matters, not the quantity. Even if you have just one thought to add but one that makes a difference, that is enough.
Let me know which of these tips and strategies you will start working on first.