We do not get heard because we speak too little, in a low voice, and hold a body posture that is low in confidence.
Have you been in similar situations of being ignored?
You are in a design meeting, something new is being brainstormed and you speak. Few listen and then the conversation moves to the next sharing with no one responding to your input.
You are in a crisis and problem-solving meeting. All are anxious and you share some data that is relevant to the problem. Someone interrupts you to bring in their point and your data is then lost in the discussion that ensues.
You feel frustrated, ignored, and keep quiet.
You hate being in meetings where you feel no one listens. Such a waste!
Do you resonate with this?
Do you associate yourself with qualities like assertive, go-getter, and confident?
These are behaviors and a mindset also. Some of us see ourselves as quiet, introverted, calm, and someone who speaks when needed only.
Attitude and mindset have much to do with our willingness to stick our necks out in meetings. These are places where many people have views, and they wish to speak. To speak up effectively and fearlessly is a quality of a good leader. Competitive workplaces reward attitudes where people fight to move to the front. This is true of a disorganized team as well.
Many people think being seen and heard is a challenge only at the junior levels. My journey as a coach says otherwise. Many of my coachees at middle and senior levels also struggle with being heard in the way they would like to.
To have a voice in meetings we need to adopt a set of habits. We can practice these and work on ourselves to get noticed and appreciated even if we are leading meetings too.
1. Adopt a belief of confidence in yourself
You are in that room because you received an invite, or you are meant to be there. Make it count. Adopt a stance that says ‘I am meant to be here ‘I am here to add value and I will’ ‘I know enough and what I have to say is important. Such a stance will bump up your confidence.
Example: A coachee centered himself before tough meetings. He took a few moments to calm himself and say ‘I am capable, I am here to add value. This was useful in meetings, especially where he was facing many competitive peers.
2. Ask Questions
This tells others that you are well versed with the core of the issue. Asking questions simple or complex is valuable. Sometimes 1 question can change the course of a meeting- that question can be yours!
Example: Who are we serving here? Are all who are needed for this decision in the room? What data do we need for ……? Are we challenging the assumptions enough?
3. Speak first
Put up your hand and give your overview of how you see the issue. In point form present a summary of your thoughts. A good way to get attention is by being the first voice which can effectively set the tone for the meeting.
Example: A team had many email exchanges on an issue and we were now meeting to discuss it. I looked at the mail chain in advance, put down all salient points, and presented a summary of my thinking. I did this at the start of the meeting. It allowed a good focus and jumping-off point for all including some colleagues who were not so clued in.
4. Be brief
Long-winded sentences do not help. Others lose the point of what we are saying. Think it in your mind first and express only the core of your thought, not all the ideas that led up to that core. State your core premise or sentence first. Then ask for time to explain it if needed.
Example: “I believe the core audience who this policy impacts is not represented at all. They need inclusion. The reason I say this is…. “(the main point first, you’re thinking later)
5. Offer no apology
Many of us say ‘correct me if I am wrong’ ‘am sorry to chime in like this ‘I am not sure but just hear me out…’. Contrary to popular thinking this isn’t a confident way of speaking. It shows tentativeness which does not help keep someone’s attention. Be direct and start with what you want to say with no prefix.
6. Be inclusive
You will be heard when you take the trouble to hear others who are unheard. This means you speak up for people who may be quiet. Say ‘We have not heard Uday at all, let’s listen to him, ‘All people have not shared, let us get more voices here’ ‘Anu seems to be trying to say something for long, let’s allow her please’. You will be seen as a person who stands up for others. This is a confidence trait.
Example: In a meeting on new policy design the new members of the team were quiet. I had to make 2-3 attempts in a 45-minute meeting to include their opinion and invite their thinking.
7. Use the board
Get up from the chair and use the board in the room. Put up a diagram, illustration, or phrase to make your point and break the monotony. Do it if you see value in your illustration, not to grab attention.
Example: For the discussion that took place for about 20 minutes, I once got up and drew a table on the board. It visually captured salient aspects of the 20 minutes. Having a visual focus was most useful to steer the meeting ahead.
If you are a person who is great at graphical or stick figure representation go on and show off!
8. Speak from your notepad
This is relevant, especially where everyone knows the problem and is bringing their ideas to the table. Say ‘I have done some thinking on this and would like to share my notes’. Then go on to explain points 1,2,3, and 4. You show up as a person of value who does their homework and prep before a meeting. You will be taken seriously because you took the trouble to do some pre-work.
Example: I rarely go to meetings without a notepad. I use it to take notes, or I would have done some thinking and carried my talking points in it. Immediately brings a certain focus to the meeting and the others know we are not chatting. It keeps the outcomes focus very clear.
9. Refocus a meeting gone tangential
Many times meetings go haywire. This is because someone brought in a point that then hijacked the entire meeting. You can be the person that holds the goal clear for the group. You make an impression of having focus and this is always valued.
Example: Be that person who says, “I think we have moved away from the topic’ ‘I think we have gone tangential now, let’s come back to the main topic’ ‘Why don’t we park that for later, we are here to discuss this not …’.
10. Acknowledge a comment and add your own
Show up as a person who listens by commenting on what others said. A comment is beyond ‘ Yes I agree’ or ‘ No I disagree’. Give an actual comment on what has been said and why you think what you do. Then add your point.
In some ways, it is like piggybacking on others’ thoughts which are already in momentum. Say the person’s name on whose point you place your thought. This is a good acknowledgment practice in meetings.
Example: I like what Ragav said because……… and what I wish to add to it is…………
11. Give your idea some teeth
This means substantiating your idea with an example or some data. Bring some credibility and energy to your idea and thereby also get attention.
Example: Site a para from a journal article. Pull up some stats from a report and add them to your point. Use research or the opinion of a thought leader in explaining your point.
12. Loud and slow
Some of us need to increase the volume of our voice and also speak slower at the same time. This is especially if you have a high-pitched voice. It is useful to speak from a lower pitch and also pay attention to where you emphasize words. You can practice in front of a mirror and even work with a voice coach if needed. It can go a long way in supporting you.
13. Stand up to interrupters
Others talking over our voice is most common in meetings. We feel bad and keep quiet. We need to build the skill to continue making our point. You will be seen as assertive and someone who is not afraid to call order.
Example: Say ‘Let me finish please’ ‘I am interrupted and would like to finish what I was saying ‘Let’s talk in turns, or there may be a point that we may miss.
Be confident in yourself
Offer no apology
Use the board
Speak from your notepad
Refocus on a meeting gone tangential
Acknowledge a comment and add your own
Give your idea some teeth
Stand up to interrupters
Loud & Slow
If you have experimented with other ways of being heard in meetings do share.
Let’s add to this list!
To read more on how to gain confidence and claim your space check https://physis.co.in/?s=how+to+gain+confidence
Sailaja Manacha is known for her programs and coaching methods that combine psychology with leadership practices. In her work, Sailaja draws from Psychology, Ontology, NLP and Spiritual frameworks as well as rich, real-world experiences.