5 ways to be more assertive in meetings
Suzanne Locke 2 August 2023
Meetings are a great opportunity to build influence at work, so it’s vital you get your voice heard. With executives joining an average 17 meetings a week (Ovum, 2014), you have 17 opportunities to be assertive.
Women tend to be interrupted 50 percent of the time in meetings (McKinsey, 2019
) and over a third (38 percent) have also seen others taking credit for their ideas.
Some 96 percent of interruptions take place as a result of men speaking over women, according to research by the University of California
You’re invited because you’re valued
This could be down to communication styles. Research shows that men in professional settings tend to compete while women tend to collaborate, preferring two-way communication.
Remember, you have been invited to a meeting because you are valued.
You either have expert knowledge or skills related to the discussion, or your manager thinks this meeting is a good learning opportunity for you… which means they will be interested to see how you perform.
Either way, you must have confidence in your own voice. Here are five ways for you to amplify your voice – or those of other underheard meeting attendees.
1. Be confident with your contribution
Be considered and confident with your language.
Keep it short and sweet – with no apology. Start and end your contributions with conviction.
“I’m sorry but” immediately weakens your position.
Be polite but assertive when you begin your contribution to a meeting, for instance:
- “I’d like to say…”
- “Can I just add…?”
Once you’ve said what you want to say, simply finish speaking. If you’re on a virtual call, finish with “Over to you.”
People will really appreciate your efficiency.
Being assertive in meetings – 3 things to say if you’re interrupted (graphic): • Be direct: “Please let me finish my point.” • Introduce humour: “Hold on. I haven’t got to the best bit yet.” • Push back with positivity: “It’s great that you’re so passionate about this, but I just need to finish my thoughts.”
2. What to say if you’re interrupted
If you do get interrupted or someone starts talking over you, there are several ways you can respond.
- Be direct: “Please let me finish my point.”
- Introduce humour: “Hold on. I haven’t got to the best bit yet.”
- Push back with positivity: “It’s great that you’re so passionate about this, but I just need to finish my thoughts.”
The important thing is not to allow yourself to be silenced. Don’t give up: it’s tempting to think it’s not worth the struggle, but we really don’t want you to be silenced.
3. Ask questions (or summarise)
To avoid going blank with fear, come armed with a few questions.
If you are an introvert, you are likely to be reflective, strategic and observant – so embrace these skills.
Research the agenda and plan what you want to say or ask beforehand.
If putting your own idea or view across in a meeting is too nerve-wracking, begin by asking questions about what other meeting attendees are saying. This shows you’re attentive, engaged and interested.
You could also use your active listening skills to sum up what is being said, so you show the value in others’ opinions as well as offering your own, considered point of view.
But don’t ask too many questions. You risk hijacking the meeting’s agenda, which is counter-productive to your goal.
4. Reserve your spot on the agenda
Here’s a thought that requires a little more planning.
Give your idea the advantage by reserving your spot before the agenda is written.
It’s a great way to make sure you actually have your say!
5. Speak up for others
You also have the power to help others find their voice in meetings.
- Only invite people who need to be there. Large groups make some people feel far less comfortable, so they become less likely to contribute.
- Distribute an agenda, to help people prepare. This will allow them to be more thoughtful with their responses.
- Try an icebreaker if people don’t know each other – get people to introduce themselves and warm up, and ease any tensions with a bit of fun.
During the meeting
- Invite contributions from everyone.
- Be encouraging. Pick up on and develop other people’s ideas (but don’t take the credit!).
- Lead by example and set the tone for non-judgemental, inclusive and respectful behaviour.
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