Have you ever struggled to get your voice heard in work meetings? Do people talk over you or constantly interrupt you, causing you to shrink into a corner?
Most of us can identify with the feeling of not being heard when there are numerous peers vying for attention. Not getting your ideas and concepts across can impact your career progression, making you look passive and disinterested. Your confidence can plummet, and the more you feel ignored, the less likely you are to contribute in the future.
Diversity and inclusion can fall by the wayside when there are strong personalities in the room. Like it or not, extroverts often get their ideas listened to the most. People are unconsciously biased to those who naturally attract more “airtime”.
However, according to research “a group member’s influence is determined more by the quantity than by the quality of his/her contributions”, even though group performance is negatively impacted by this behaviour.
Unfortunately, gender also plays a role, as women are less likely to be taken seriously in the workplace in general (that’s a topic I’ve covered in another article!).
Of course your position in the organisation plays a part, and subordinates can feel frustrated at being talked over and interrupted.
So how can you be more influential in work meetings? Here are some tips which you’ll find helpful:
1. Practise Your Speaking Skills
Practise the art of speaking up as often as you can. The more you get comfortable with speaking in front of your colleagues, the easier it will become. Practise outside of the workplace as well, in social settings. Your self esteem will improve, people will pick up on your confidence and be more likely to listen to what you have to say. Public speaking organisations such as Toastmasters can be invaluable in improving your speaking skills in leaps and bounds.
2. Use Your Voice Effectively
There’s no need to resort to raising your voice needlessly but there is something to be said for speaking clearly and confidently. Don’t mumble, speak too softly or race through your comments too fast. Pause briefly for effect, and make sure that you’re using abdominal breathing to even out your vocal tone.
3. Watch Your Language
Enhance your credibility by using positive language. Avoid prefacing with phrases such as “I’m not sure about this but…” or “This may be a silly question but…”. Also avoid ending your sentences with a question mark. This only makes you sound less credible and your colleagues will be less likely to respect what you have to say.
The same principle applies to your body language. Your colleagues will take you more seriously if you’re sitting up and leaning slightly forward when speaking, rather than slouched in your chair. Use confident eye contact and make sure that your arms aren’t crossed defensively.
4. Listen Actively
It’s easy to fall into the habit of sitting there rehearsing “your speech” and waiting for a pause in the discussion, rather than listening actively. Communication is a two way street, and listening closely will give you a better chance of contributing meaningfully to the conversation.
5. Be reciprocal
In this article by Kathleen Reardon, she advises linking to what others have said, as a way of getting your point across. Acknowledging someone else’s idea before adding your own contribution will make it more likely that they will reciprocate and support your ideas. Reciprocity is one of the most powerful ways to influence others and create an ongoing exchange.
I hope this article has been helpful and best of luck at your next meeting!
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