For some, speaking up in meetings is second nature. For others, struggling to speak up (and to be heard) is an unfortunate office norm. Whether you’re a manager, project lead, or simply a team member who wants to motivate others to use their voice, you’ve committed to your Microstep because you see the value in a free flow of ideas and lively conversation. But encouraging everyone to share their point of view is even more effective if you offer helpful ways to do it. Here are three strategies you can use to support your colleagues and urge them to speak up.
“Trying to communicate in a way that goes against your natural tendencies can be uncomfortable,” Michael Alcée, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, tells Thrive. “Confidence starts with being in alignment with who you are.” If your team members lean a little more toward the quiet side, Alcée says that it can be helpful to have them write down their thoughts before a meeting. That way, they can allow themselves the space to clarify ideas first, so they’re more comfortable presenting them to others later. “Writing it out helps you work from the inside out,” he says. “Putting in that time to process your ideas on paper is essential to your workflow.” Alcée also emphasizes that it’s vital to do what works for you in a collaborative office culture. “We have this misconception that we live in an extroverted culture where we need to think out loud,” he says. “Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to respond to the quick tempo of that meeting.” Giving your colleagues the time to process their thoughts and then make a meaningful contribution is a smart tactic.
Safeguard alone time
If a team member considers themselves an introvert, making some time to think and process on their own is imperative to their meeting (and workplace) success. “Some of us do better thinking alone first and then coming to the group,” Alcée points out. The same applies to your extroverted colleagues: Taking some time to be alone during the day can help them feel more ready to speak up when in a crowd later on. “That alone time is preparation time,” Alcée says. “Gaining the confidence to speak up comes down to that preparation.” Encourage your meeting attendees to find even just 15 minutes for themselves before your next meeting, and perhaps even more if it’s going to be a high-stakes gathering.
Be open about the way you communicate
There’s no shame in being a quieter person, or being the first person to speak up in the room, so there’s no reason not to be upfront and direct about it. “Explain your preferred communication style to your teammates,” Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength, tells Thrive. “Speaking up can become less painful.” Let your colleagues know that they should be open and compassionately direct about their tendencies. That way, everyone will know what to expect, and can work together to support and strengthen each other’s communication styles.
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