When it comes to business meetings it sometimes seems as if the world is divided into those people who love to hear the sound of their own voices and those who don’t. The strange thing is that the people who choose silence or who seldom speak, appear to hold mysteries and knowledge that louder more verbal contributors in meetings would love to hear. Their silence, which they feel holds them back in their career development, can seem as intimidating to others as the volubility of the talkers is to them.
Silence is a very powerful tool.
It can change the whole mood of a group.
It can affect outcomes.
It can also silence and inhibit others.
Sometimes people who can’t share publicly will resort to private chats after a meeting and this can be seen as divisive and manipulative. What can they have to say that can’t be heard by everyone? People at the start of their career or those who feel that only senior staff have the right to speak out can come across as too timid or not resilient.
So what is going on?
In our workshops we come across many people who are shy about giving voice to their thoughts – at all levels in their career. The most confident and capable person can be amongst the most introverted. They find it hard to contribute vocally and they have difficulty giving voice to opinions in front of others. If this is not dealt with, as their career advances the harder it is for them to break habits and allow themselves to contribute. Why is this? Simple – we give too much credence to our Inner Critic and we forget to be mindful of the moment and actively listen to what is being said around us.
The Inner Critic
When we are listening we begin to formulate our own responses but our inner critic, like a little demon, enters our thoughts and starts to play havoc. Don’t say that it’s a terrible idea! What a ridiculous question – haven’t you been attending! No-one will tolerate that. We start to pay heed to the negative little devil whose own voice gets louder and louder inside us. Before we know it another voice pipes up at the other end of the table saying the exact thing we have in our heads and then reaping the attention of the Chair and often the approbation of the whole table.
So why I should I speak up at meetings?
Your thoughts and questions are as valid as everyone else’s and your contribution as valuable.
Because there are no stupid questions.
Because you need to be seen and heard.
Because people are interested in what you have to say.
How should I speak out at meetings?
- Leave your inner critic outside the room as you come in. He or she will benefit from the break.
- Breathe, sit up straight and actively listen. Agree with people visibly nodding your head. Uhuh ing. Make eye contact around the table as you do.
- Vocally say ‘I agree’ or ‘I’d like to second that’ with someone else’s opinion or proposal.
- I once heard someone say that adding an ‘I agree’ to someone else’s comment felt like a weak and feeble way to contribute. I disagree. In this day and age where most people bring iPads and Blackberry’s into the meeting on the pretext of note-taking then a voice coming over strongly with just those two words is someone who is making an active contribution and it also means you are present.
- (see previous post on being present)
- Once you utter those two words, by breaking your own silence, you will feel much easier.
- Your next opinion will come with greater confidence.
Over time by centring yourself, sitting upright, breathing and making eye contact you will soon be ready for your first major contribution.