You’ve got a great idea but it seems the large board room table, the looming presence of your manager, or the loud co-worker who hogs the mic makes you feel anxious, self-conscious and lost for words. You’re not alone.
That’s not where the problem ends. It could be that when you do speak up and share your thoughts, you’re ignored or “shut down” by bigger voices. It feels terrible but there are some that have overcome the fear of not been heard and have gone on to get the recognition they deserve for a job well done.
Tired of feeling small and unwanted? Try these five strategies to put yourself out there and make yourself heard at your workplace;
When you want to speak, do so convincingly:
Some people make the mistake of downplaying an idea by treating it like a mere suggestion. As much as possible, avoid disclaimer statements like ‘I think’ or ‘this is just my idea, but…’ and avoid filler words such as ‘um’, ‘like’ or ‘you know. You can go ahead and be assertive by replacing phrases like ‘Do you think you could get this done by tomorrow?’ with ‘I need this by tomorrow please.’
When you speak, do so with intention:
Make efforts to speak clearly by emphasising key points, addressing the entire room if you’re presenting to a group, and maintaining eye contact, especially if you’re pitching one on one. This does not mean you have to be aggressive. Don’t be afraid of pauses, use them to your advantage. A slight pause gives you time to gather your thoughts and gives your audience time to reflect on what you’ve said.
Have some talking points planned out before you pitch your idea. Practice with a trusted and understanding colleague who can help you iron out any rough edges. Record yourself speaking or practice in front of a mirror. Imagine the possible reactions people might have to your idea. Look at it from as many other perspectives as possible. What are some of the biggest takeaways from your pitch? What are some questions that might come up in response to your idea? How will you answer those questions?
Make it a conversation:
People lose interest when they’re forced to listen to a long monologue. Invite them to be a part of your idea by framing your pitch in a way that makes them want to ask questions and learn more. When you give them time to ask questions, they’ll be more interested, attentive, and engaged. The more you can engage them, the more they’ll truly listen. Let people weigh in with their opinions and participate in the discussion. Accept criticism too. It’s part of the deal.
Speak quieter. We never said louder!
A quiet voice speaks volumes. You may be tempted to shout to make your voice heard and feel powerful. No. There is power in being quiet. Someone speaking calmly, evenly, and quietly makes people stop to listen because they have to stop talking in order to hear you.
Get to the point as soon as possible:
Hook people in with the main points of the idea and then dive into the details. When you start strong, you’ll give them a reason to continue listening. Remember, time is a precious commodity. While the eight-second attention span might sound unreal, people certainly aren’t as focused as they used to be and appreciate brevity now more than ever.
Be a good listener:
The art of listening has become more and more difficult for people to do. Everyone is so busy fighting to get their voices heard that they forget to stop and listen to what someone else is saying. To be a better talker, take a step back and make time to really listen to people – to what they’re saying and how they’re reacting. Plan to spend as much time listening as you do talking.
Come with a solution, not a problem:
People don’t want to hear what’s wrong. They just want to know how to fix it. So, instead of raising complaints, offer solutions. Look around the company and find a way to solve an existing problem. That’s how you show that you are valuable and have a positive attitude. Your launch to a greater career path is just one idea away.
Don’t be afraid to make your voice heard at work. Try these strategies one after the other. Believe in yourself and what you have to say, then go make them hear it!
Do you have questions or comments? Do share with us in the comment section.