Should I Say It? Pushing Past The Fear Of Speaking Up In Meetings
We’ve all been there (well, most of us, anyway). Sitting in a meeting, having a strong opinion or thoroughly researched insight and wanting to add value to a meeting… and then keeping our mouths shut. Maybe it was because we were new to the company and didn’t yet know whether we had the right to insist our voice be heard. Maybe it’s because we were a junior employee and the point we had to make contradicted what someone in a more senior position had to say. Or maybe we were suffering from imposter syndrome and worried that the middle-aged CEO in his Joy Division T-shirt and converse sneakers might not appreciate us interrupting his inspiring rant created using only buzzwords. Whatever the reason, we’ve been there and kept our mouths shut.
The problem is that we see our reasoning as being legitimate and put conditions on when, exactly, we’ll be ready to speak up in meetings. For example, when we graduate from being an intern to a full-time employee, when we’ve been with the company for more than six months or when that CEO that you’re terrified of isn’t in the room. In reality, it’s our thinking that’s stopping us from speaking up in meetings. By changing our thinking from reasons not to speak, to reasons why we should be speaking, we’ll find it easier to find our voices – whether we’re at a formal conference room rental in NYC or in the home office of a startup in Williamsburg.
Read on how to change your thinking so that you’re not letting your fear of speaking up in meetings hinder your credibility.
Instead of thinking about what could happen if you bumbled your words and said the wrong thing, think of the consequences of not speaking up.
If you didn’t speak up, would a valuable insight be left out of the meeting? Could the idea being pitched by someone else be elevated by something you have to say? Or, equally important, could you point out a problem in what someone else is saying and therefore save the company from making a problematic decision? If you believe that what you have to say is more than simply a passing thought and could make a difference, you have an obligation to add your two cents to the conversation. By being inactive in the meeting, you could actively be limiting the outcome of the meeting.
Instead of thinking that you’re too junior or too new to speak up, think about the fact that they’re paying you to be in that meeting.
Whether it’s your third day of your first job or your 37th day at your fourth job, you were chosen to be in that meeting for a reason. And they’re paying you to be there. That’s vital to remember when it comes to deciding whether or not to speak up in a workplace situation. If you were brought in to take notes, sure, you can keep silent if you feel uncomfortable speaking up. But other than that, you actually have a responsibility to participate. You are being compensated for your time, your mind and your expertise… so, it makes complete sense that you would be expected to contribute these three things in a meeting.
When you begin to think of speaking up as a responsibility, a part of the job you are being paid to do, it becomes easier to speak up. For example, there’s no other area of your job where you would feel okay not putting in the work because you don’t really feel confident about it. There is no way you would ever turn to your boss and say, “Nope, I didn’t send you that competitor insight report because I’ve only been here a few days and didn’t want to seem entitled.”
Instead of thinking you don’t want to seem “too much” by speaking too often, think about not being seen if you’re not being heard.
While nobody likes that one person in a meeting who speaks too much, no one even thinks about the person who doesn’t speak at all. And that could come as a cost to your career. Often, meetings are a place where you come together with the rest of your team, more senior staff members, or clients. It’s, therefore, a good place to assert yourself and let the people involved in the meeting know that you are a productive, insightful and proactive employee or contractor. By speaking up, you show that you have value and can have a positive impact on a project, new venture or the business as a whole.
If you’re one of those people who struggle to speak up in a meeting due to fear, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to keep silent. By changing the way you think of speaking up during a meeting, you’ll find it easier to have the confidence to say what you believe needs to be said.