It saddens me that so many people with really valuable and useful things to say don’t get heard. And yet their colleagues speak up and speak out with no problem at all – sometimes eloquently and succinctly, at other times…. well you know the rest!
It saddens me because when I first became a senior leader, I struggled to get my voice heard too. I had that ‘not good enough’ feeling way too often. Plus I was brought up to believe that it is ‘rude to interrupt’ (is it? Always?) and that made it really hard to find a way in to the conversation.
Here are 5 possible reasons your voice is not being heard – and what to do about it:
1. Problem: You’re not speaking in meetings! So many talented people tell me they don’t want to speak up ‘for fear of looking stupid’ or something similar. Solution: Find a way to say something – just one thing to start with. How about: ‘This is new ground for me, so I’d like to understand this a bit more’; or ‘I’ll be able to give a more well-thought out response when I’ve done xyz’ or ‘I’d love to know a bit more about that’ and so on. Once you’ve opened your mouth once, it’s easier to do it another time.
2. Problem: You’re waffling on – many of us waffle when we are nervous – but it’s hard for others to listen so they switch off and our valuable input is lost. Being concise and succinct is something we can all learn. Solution: Practise breathing in and out slowly. I find it helps to say one sentence and then pause, take a sip of water and then continue. Rinse and repeat.
3. Problem: Other people are not ‘letting you in’. Solution: Interrupt with elegance: ‘I’d like to come in here’ or ‘there’s something really important to add here’.
4. Body language. Problem: Shrinking in your seat shows that you think you are not important and people will treat you accordingly (remember, we teach people how to treat us). Solution: Stand or sit tall, project your voice to the back of the room and make your point succinctly.
5. Problem: You’re running a no-longer-useful script or story in your head that you need to change – or your ‘Impostor’ is getting in the way. Solution: Take a look at my short video on the Impostor syndrome.