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4 tips for introverts to speak up in meetings

18 May, 2016

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Date of Publication: 18 May, 2016
Meetings are made for people to speak, and unless you already are the most important person in the room, the habit of keeping quiet is not doing you (or your career) any favour. Good news is, a lot of introverts have already learned how to speak up when necessary - and so could you.

1. Watch your thoughts

Why wouldn’t you speak your mind in the first place? Your listener’s attitude may be full of good intentions, such as not wanting to interrupt, or a belief that you have nothing to add. Why waste everyone’s time stating the obvious? Or even worse, why risk being wrong?

These thoughts mostly start as good intentions. But they become major roadblocks when they keep roaming unquestioned in the back of your head. Always be mindful of why you are keeping your mouth shut, and learn to let go of assumptions.

2. Speak before you’re ready

Besides assumptions, there’s another category of thoughts that could be hindering you: your very ideas. They may be not fully formed, the perfect sentence not all carved in your head. Perhaps you’re still missing a key element, or you just can’t find the right term - and eventually say nothing.

It’s time to trust yourself and your imperfect wording. Try to speak before you have the ideal words ready: you’ll end up being just as effective - also, you’ll end up speaking, finally.

Just listen to what your colleagues are saying. They’re probably not talking Shakespeare, either.

3. Raise your hand

There’s no better way to avoid having nothing to add at the end, than to speak your ideas earlier in the meeting. If you feel uncomfortable exposing yourself so directly, watch those who usually speak first, observe what they say and how they say it.

A good preparation may come in useful, too: arrive at the meeting with a clear picture of what is going to be discussed, by who, and what is the expected outcome. Take note of your thoughts earlier, and speak them up as soon as you can.

4. Ask for advice

These deviations from your usual attitude all need some practice, be it beforehand or in meeting themselves. You can speed up the process by asking senior colleagues why you’re requested at the gathering and what is expected from you. Knowing what part of the project you’re supposed to cover will help you decide which part of the conversation is yours to jump in.

There is no “right” approach to a work discussion. No-one is asking introverts to defy their very nature and start bantering, just as nobody will ask your more extrovert colleagues to keep silent and nod for the sake of tranquility.

What you can learn to do is to let them know that you’re there, and that indeed you have something to share. Once they acknowledge that, they will let you share it in your quiet way.

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