Have you ever made a contribution in a meeting and been surprised that nobody seems to notice that you have spoken?
It is frustrating and it is important that teams hear information and opinion pertinent to the topic from everyone.
Here red10 ‘s Sarah Barber shares some hints and tips for getting your voice heard.
It is possible, particularly if your contribution is brief, that people can mis-interpret an important comment as a throw-away remark.
Why not let them know the importance when you start to speak? E.g. “I have some information that is important for everyone to hear at this point”.
Or you could use a question, asking people whether they would like to hear the contribution before you make it. e.g. “I heard an interesting take on this issue from marketing, would you like to hear it?”
When you do this, people are primed to listen to you because you have grabbed their attention and signposted that what you are about to say is important to you.
Sometimes you will have been listening to the discussion and it has sparked a thought in your mind.
By just voicing your thought, you take the risk that others miss the connection to the discussion and do not make the mental leap that has happened inside your head. Making a concise summary of what others have said is one of the most advanced effective communication behaviours described by Neil Rackham It is a “pull” behaviour – that is to say it is focused on others and not on yourself.
If you are able to summarise the discussion, you will demonstrate that you have been listening and you will be able to explicitly make the connection to the new thought before you voice it. This gives a greater chance that you will be heard in the way that you intended.
Use “muscular language”
An HBR article coins the phrase muscular language to describe active, authoritative, precise language that shows you’re taking ownership of your opinions.
Whilst the article is about women finding their voice, it is pertinent to anyone who has struggled to be heard in meetings. As an example, instead of saying “I think maybe……” try saying “My strong advice is……”. This transforms your contribution from a tentatively held opinion to an authoritative opinion that you own.
Make a proposal
If your contribution is a suggestion for a course of action that the team should take, make this explicit.
Get used to using the words “I propose” to signpost what you are doing. It is an example of muscular language and is one of the powerful phrases discussed in our article Moving teams from discussion to action.