Learning to be heard in a meeting is a hard enough skill on its own. Add to that unhealthy workplace dynamics that often exist for younger or female colleagues, and you’ve got a situation that needs remedying.
Here are some tips for having your voice heard in a meeting.
The center of the conversation is a great place to start. If you’re at the far reaches of the room or at a far corner of the table, it’s easier for dominant personalities to override your voice. Place yourself as close to the center as possible. This gives coworkers a subconscious indication that you’re part of the conversation.
Waiting for the right pause in a busy meeting may not yield much fruit. Sometimes, the art of tactful interruption is what’s needed. This will still require some skill to pull off without seeming obnoxious, but it’s a powerful move.
A great way to do this is to start with a relatable opener: “I agree with Mark that *____, and I also think*____.” This helps rally others to listen to you by first validating their ideas and acknowledging their contributions.
We use phrasal hedges — that is, phrases that soften the delivery of our true opinions — because we fear being reprimaded for speaking our minds. These include:
- “for what it’s worth…”
- “in my personal opinion…”
- “maybe it’s just me, but…”
These phrases may sound polite, but their effect is to diminish the import of what you’re saying. They open the door for others to shoot down your ideas. Instead, use declarative, confident sentences to state your ideas.
If someone tries to step on you when it’s your time to speak, hold your ground. You can do this politely by saying, “I’m happy to hear your thoughts, but please let me finish first,” or “I’d like to add this before we move on.”
Slouching, crossing your arms, leaning back in your chair — all of these indicate detachment from a conversation. Avoid fidgeting when you speak or shying away from eye contact.
Use your hands to add to what you’re saying. Lean forward and “into” the conversation. Sit up straight and resist the urge to speak too quickly.
Overcome this common workplace challenge by practicing these strategies, and enjoy the pleasure of holding others’ attention when you speak up at meetings.
“Speak Up! Five Tips to Make Yourself Heard in Meetings.” Goodwill Industries International, 18 Sept. 2013, https://www.goodwill.org/blog/career-and-financial-advice/speak-up-five-tips-to-make-yourself-heard-in-meetings/.