You probably spend far too many of your working hours in meetings. Chances are, you’ve contemplated how you can have less of them. But have you ever thought about how you can make those meetings more productive and beneficial? After all, they provide opportunities to showcase yourself as a star employee, and even present yourself as a potential leader of your company.
But to get there, you need to speak up in those meetings. Far too many of my clients don’t do that (which is why they come to me in the first place). By staying silent, they’re leaving potential career advancement opportunities on the table.
If you can’t cut the number of meetings, you can at least make them a more productive use of your time. Here are four things that might be stopping you from voicing your point of view, and how to push past those fears.
1. YOU DON’T WANT TO SEEM OVERBEARING
If you’re always around people who force their opinions in every conversation, you might be inclined to do the opposite. After all, you don’t want to be that annoying person, right?
But there is a difference between talking for the sake of talking and speaking up because you have something valuable to contribute. You don’t necessarily have to have an opinion for every meeting item, but when you do, you should make that clear. You can start off by voicing one opinion per meeting until you become comfortable with expressing your thoughts in front of your colleagues. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
2. YOU’RE TOO WORRIED ABOUT YOUR WORDS
You’re unlikely to jump in with your thoughts if you’re the type of person who insists on finding perfect words to describe your ideas. But the thing is, your colleagues are probably not going to be paying that much attention to the words you say. Instead, they’re more likely to pay attention to your arguments. If you have a clear thesis, you don’t need fancy words (in fact, using them can backfire.)
Remember also that your listeners will be filtering your words through their own assumptions and interpretations, so focusing on them won’t make your messages more effective. Rather than getting too hung up on your vocabulary, include an anecdote. That allows you to connect with your colleagues at a personal level, and they’re more likely to resonate with your message.
3. YOU CONTINUOUSLY QUESTION WHETHER YOUR IDEAS ARE “RIGHT”
Perfectionists like to micromanage their ideas until they feel that they’re 100% “right” or “perfect.” But by the time they’re happy with them, they’ve missed their chance to make their mark. Perhaps their employer has moved on or started implementing other people’s ideas already.
The solution to this is simple, though not easy–give up this goal of perfection. Think about your ideas like minimum viable products–something to test out and fine-tune later. Trust that your ideas are good enough to mention in meetings. If you sense that your boss and colleagues are interested in pursuing it further, then you can refine it
4. YOU UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF
One of the biggest barriers to speaking up in meetings is simply underestimating yourself. You might feel unqualified to discuss subjects outside of your area of expertise. You need to get rid of this mind-set if you want to be perceived as a leader. Leaders don’t know everything, but they are comfortable expressing their perspective. Remember, vocalizing your thoughts on one subject matter doesn’t mean going into nitty-gritty details. You can point out an overarching issue, then defer to a subject-matter expert when discussions take a more technical turn.
You don’t need to be a chatterbox to gain credibility as a leader or high-performing employee. You do, however, need to make your opinions known when it comes to important issues. By understanding your resistance to speaking up in meetings, you can learn to push past those fears. You won’t get there overnight, but with plenty of practice, you’ll find that it becomes easier.