In the workplace, extroverted behaviors are viewed positively. Think of charismatic, outgoing, talkative people who think-on-their-feet, shout out ideas and challenge others. Their contribution is bold and visible.
People who consider themselves introverts also contribute enormous value. Their insightful ideas, keen observations, and fine-tuned listening are huge assets to any team.
Even still, a senior manager recently confided to me he believes his introverted personality creates a negative impression of disengagement. He finds this especially true in meetings because he prefers to listen and absorb information before responding and making decisions on the spot.
How can people with introverted preferences amplify their voice and quickly respond in meetings when extra time to process information and quietly reflect isn’t possible?
9 Ways to Jump In, Speak Up and Contribute to any Meeting or Conversation
- Preview and prepare. Request the agenda ahead of the meeting so you know what will be discussed. Formulate a few thoughts, opinions or questions. Give yourself time to think through when and where you want to contribute.
- Play the role of formal facilitator. Every meeting needs someone to set up the meeting purpose, keep an eye on the clock and move the discussion along. Acting as the facilitator is a valuable role anyone can play. Alternatively, ask to lead or facilitate a section of the agenda to get your voice into the mix.
- Play the role of informal facilitator. Even if you don’t consider yourself the official meeting leader, be the person to periodically clarify points, connect ideas and summarize decisions.
- Arrive or dial-in early. In the few minutes before a meeting starts, connect with others in the room and build rapport. Informal chitchat is often where we uncover critical work information, opinions, and opportunities. While many introverts don’t enjoy small talk, it doesn’t have to be painful.
- Speak up early. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking recommends speaking up early to establish credibility before the conversation goes off-track or moves quickly in different directions. Cain says, “On a psychological level, it helps you feel a part of the meeting earlier, and people will often in turn direct their comments to you, whereas if you wait a while to speak, the opposite usually happens.”
- Butt in. Don’t wait to be called on. In some environments, you have to interject and interrupt. Do it politely, yet forcefully. “To piggy-back off Anna…” or “Before we move on, I want to say …”
- Pump up the volume. Raise the volume of your voice louder than your typical, conversational volume. Whether on the phone or in a conference room, your voice will carry more conviction if you speak slowly, clearly and from the diaphragm. To be heard, you must literally be heard.
- Ask questions. If you want to contribute but aren’t sure what to add, ask a question. It’s a safe and easy way to contribute. Chances are others also have the same question you do.
- Align your non-verbals. What message is your body language sending? Are you listening with interest or distracted with screens? Our subtle behaviors signal what’s important and worth our attention.
If 30% of the people in the room are doing 70% of the talking (and you’re not one of them), actively assert your voice, ideas, and insights. Try one of the tips above in your next meeting and notice what changes.
Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.