Imagine this: You walk into a meeting, sit down, and share your awesome ideas without ever feeling self conscious or overwhelmed. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I know firsthand that this isn’t always how things go down, even though it might be what we want to happen. Entering a big meeting full of people sharing thoughts can be intimidating, and even though we know it’s important to contribute, it can be difficult to figure out a speaking strategy that still feels natural and comfortable. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows it’s typical for women to feel less effective in meetings, as opposed to other business situations, or feel like it’s difficult to find a way into the conversation. So to figure out some tried-and-true tips on how to speak up in any meeting, I asked career coach (and extrovert!) Ashley Stahl what us introverts can do to make ourselves heard.
[Related: 10 Habits of Successful Introverts]
1. Let go of the idea that you need to do a ton of talking.
When everyone is sharing ideas at the speed of light, it can feel like you have to say a lot to get noticed. But if speaking up really isn’t your thing, feel free to take the pressure off. Meetings can almost seem like networking, where you need to talk to a ton of people to be effective. But going into a meeting with that sort of mindset can make the experience even more unpleasant. “My top tip for introverts is to give themselves permission to let go of the belief that they need to talk to every person in the room,” Stahl says. Just remember, what you’re saying can be just as important as speaking up at all. Paying attention to the quality of your comments, rather than the quantity, can help you relax a bit and focus on what contributions you want to make. (I’ll occasionally even write down the points I want to make before I say them aloud; having my thoughts written out in front of me makes speaking up that much easier.)
2. Build your speaking muscle.
While it may not seem like it, speaking up is really something that gets easier with practice. “I believe that speaking is a muscle inside of you that can be built—but only if you use it,” Stahl says. While it can be a bit scary, the best way to overcome any fear is to just throw yourself into the fire. Try making a goal for yourself that forces you to speak up a few times throughout the week. Start small, maybe by deciding you’ll share one new idea at your weekly brainstorming meeting, and then work up from there. Your speaking muscle will only grow stronger and eventually, those small challenges will turn into daily occurrences you barely even think about.
3. Get back to the basics.
Another easy way for introverts to get more comfortable with speaking up is by taking a speaking class, like Toastmasters, suggests Stahl. “These classes help you build that muscle to speak, and the environment is profoundly supportive,” she says. “It’ll inevitably translate into your work life.” You can even ask a coworker or two to come along with you—chances are there are other people in the office who’d love to sharpen their speaking skills as well.
And if you’re looking for another no-pressure way to practice your speaking skills, take a look at the Local Levo events in your area! No matter what the event is, it’ll be an encouraging environment where you can practice speaking up with zero worries.
[Related: How to Stand Out in a Group of Extroverts]
Photo: David Lees / Getty Images