From Quiet to Confident: How to Make Your Voice Heard in Meetings

From Quiet to Confident: How to Make Your Voice Heard in Meetings

Back of woman with hair in undo and white shirt, with right hand raised, looking at colleagues presenting

Are you an introvert who struggles with speaking up in meetings?

If you are, you are not alone! It is one of the most common challenges experienced by us introverts.

Here are 3 reasons why we stop ourselves from speaking up in group settings:

  • We feel uncomfortable suddenly having the spotlight on us and being the centre of everyone’s focus
  • We’re too humble about our abilities and opinions so we don’t think our input is that valuable or important
  • We struggle to interject particularly when there are louder folks hogging the limelight

It's not uncommon to feel intimidated in group situations, especially if you're outnumbered by more outspoken colleagues. But the truth is, your voice matters and your ideas could be the missing piece in a successful meeting.

And ultimately, don’t you want to be less self-critical and inhibited? Don’t you want to be more understood and valued for your unique perspective? Don’t you want to feel more confident and at ease in sharing your ideas, thoughts and opinions with your co-workers?

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn to see what’s going on and what you can do differently when you next find yourself with an opportunity to speak up.

“Your voice matters and your ideas could be the missing piece in a successful meeting.”

When Everyone Turns To Look At You

Woman in light grey suit with head down standing in the spotlight

Feeling uncomfortable when the spotlight is on you comes from a limiting belief that triggers your body's automatic fight/flight/freeze response: the little voice in your head telling you that your idea or opinion isn’t valid or useful, or who would want to hear your perspective anyway?

The sense of fear or dread that rises up can make you want to sink into the floor or run out of the room, and that’s before you’ve said anything. If you manage to push through this and speak up, the adrenalin rushing through your body is still active and can impact your ability to think clearly and say what you want to say with impact. The whole experience can be painful, leaving you feeling despondent, dejected and living a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If this has happened to you before, and for most of us introverts it has, knowing how uncomfortable you are going to feel can prevent you from wanting to experience that again. And who can blame you?

The first step is to recognize what is happening in your body to create these uncomfortable feelings. When you realize this is a natural response to limiting thoughts, it's the first step in taking charge of how you feel. When you understand that you choose how you feel, you empower yourself to create a different experience when you speak up next time.

Take charge of how you feel so you can create a different experience”

When You’re Being Too Humble

Young asian woman sat cross-legged on floor holding up a poster of a lightbulb

Again, that inner critic may be getting too much airplay! Spoiler alert: being an introvert, not everyone thinks as deeply about things as you do and they often don’t consider every angle. This concept, motion or project needs your critical thinking and creativity.

May be what you wanted to say has already been said, but conversation and discussion aren’t about saying one thing, one time only. Sometimes it’s important to ‘chew the fat’ and go back and forth as a team to get to the right decision. This is what extroverts are good at! They process their thoughts and ideas in real time, which is why they seem to have so much to say.

Once all the back and forth has happened, perhaps the idea you agree with gets lost or pushed aside. Rather than believing you don’t have anything more to add, or that your idea or opinion isn’t valid, how about going back and reinforcing your colleague’s point? By saying something like, “I like what Jane was saying earlier about timing. It’s important we don’t overlook the other priorities we are having to work with.”, you are contributing to the discussion, reinforcing an important point, and building allyship with Jane.

Not everyone thinks as deeply about things, or considers every angle as you do”

When You’re Struggling To Interject

Man with red hair and beard, wearing black glasses, at meeting table looking down at his iPad, not engaged in meeting

Sometimes it can be hard to get a word in edgeways when stronger personalities jump in first and monopolize the discussion.

Remember, your point is important, and you want to demonstrate you are contributing. With your introverted sensitivity, you can easily pick up energetically when there’s a slight gap in the conversation. That's the moment to make a non-verbal cue to the group that you want to say something.

Get tuned in to the discussion so you can be in the flow of the conversation. You can also raise your hand, or look at the person chairing the meeting to signal to them you have something to say. In virtual meetings this is made a lot easier by the ‘raise hand’ function.

Check out our 'in the moment' worksheet The 4 Steps To Shine In Meetings for a quick way to process feelings in real time.

From Hiding To Quiet Confidence

So here’s a big question … What’s more important to you – protecting yourself or sharing your wisdom?

Are the folks around you generally good people who actually do want to hear from you? Do they sometimes say things that are incorrect or repetitive? - ie. nobody is perfect at communication.

To move from hiding to quiet confidence, it's time to push through your fears, worries or concerns. Take control of when you are going to speak up by tuning into the flow of the conversation. Take a few deep breaths to release the emotion triggered by your fight / flight / freeze response, and share. Start small by engaging in discussions where you already feel safe with the people around the table or on the Zoom call, where you can stretch yourself out of your comfort zone for the greater good!

Here are five practical ways to shift your energy and build your confidence when speaking up.

  1. Prepare in advance: Take some time before the meeting to prepare yourself. Knowing what the meeting will be about, brainstorm ideas and take notes. This can help you feel more confident and organized when it's time to speak up.
  2. Practice speaking: Practice makes perfect, and the more you practice, the more comfortable you'll feel speaking up. Try speaking up in front of a mirror, with a trusted friend, or even by recording yourself. This can help you become more comfortable with your speaking style and build confidence.
  3. Use non verbal signals: Don’t wait for anyone to invite you to speak. Use eye contact or raise your hand to indicate you have something to say. Think of this is as a whole body experience – you can say a lot through your body not just your voice.
  4. Start small: Starting small can help you ease into the conversation. Begin by asking questions or sharing brief comments to test the waters. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase your level of participation. Remember that every contribution, no matter how small, adds value to the discussion.
  5. Focus on the message: It's easy to get caught up in worrying about how you're being perceived. Instead, focus on the message you want to convey. Speak clearly and concisely, and use facts and data to support your ideas. The goal is to contribute to the discussion and add value to the meeting.

Remember, speaking up in meetings can be challenging for us introverts as we’ve discussed. But the world needs your ideas and contributions – your voice matters, and it really is time to make it heard.

Click here to download your free ‘In The Moment’ guide to shine in meetings – specific steps to take during meetings that bring your quiet intelligence into the spotlight.