Ideas and tips to get along and get stuff donexxxxxxxxxx December 21, 2021
Hi Folks,
Something a little different this time: a whole newsletter on a single topic.
Hope you like it. Let me know what you think.
How to NOT be Invisible in Meetings
Several years ago a woman said to me, “I feel invisible in meetings.” The woman was a rising star in her profession yet she was having a hard time getting called on in meetings. When she did speak, she got interrupted. When she did not speak, she felt guilty for not contributing and afraid it would affect her career. She felt a general lack of respect from her male colleagues. I did a little researching and reflecting, and came up with the following five strategies.
1. Speak Early
and Premeditated

First the premeditated part. Prepare, understand what’s going to be on the agenda, and have some things in mind that you are ready to go with and that you’re prepared to say. Now you might change them on the fly but at least be prepared.

Now the speak early part. You know, patterns are established early in meetings and if you can be one of the first people to speak in a meeting there will be a natural tendency to keep going back to you. If you don’t speak for the first time in a meeting until halfway or three-quarters of the way through, by that time the pattern and the credibility of the meeting leaders has already been established. So make a pre-commitment before the meeting that you’re going to be one of the very first people to speak up and have yourself ready with something to say.
2. Get and Keep
the Floor

Sometimes it’s really hard to get a word in edgewise. The meeting might be well facilitated; somebody is making sure that everybody who raises a hand gets a chance. If that’s the case, you need to be unambiguous about getting the attention of the person who’s calling on people. But in other meetings, there’s seemingly no one in charge, and particularly if you are a woman in a setting of lots of dominant men, you’re going to be invisible and it can be difficult to get the floor.

You might have the floor and start speaking and….. by the way, this stuff that I’m saying, you know it applies to both men and women. It applies to anybody who feels invisible in meetings. This is not just about women in meetings of men. But whoever you are, you might feel that people are ready to interrupt you at a moment’s notice. You can prevent against that in a couple ways.

First of all when you start speaking you can say, “Look I would like to say three things (hold up three fingers). “The first thing (hold up one finger) is blah, blah, blah…” When you’re done with the first thing, hold up two fingers and say, “Okay now the second thing I’d like to say is such and such.” So that everybody from the outset knows that you have three things to say and that they should listen until you’re done with all three.

Another thing you can do is — I hate that it’s like this but — fill the empty space. Some people will jump into a gap, a breath, and use that as an opportunity to interrupt. So even if you have to take a breath, even if you have to pause to collect your thoughts, fill the space a little bit with little words like, “umm, and” or gestures that signify that you are not yet done speaking.

A third thing you can do to prevent interruptions is to cue into the person that you know is about to interrupt you. You can feel that person just waiting for the chance to interrupt you and you know what you can do? You can address them directly and you can say, “I have the sense that you have something to say and I’d love to hear from you just as soon as I’m done. Hold on a second.” And then you go on with your statement. Get and keep the floor – that’s number two.

Oh, and if you do get interrupted, don’t yield easily. Keep talking right on track. Connect with those who are listening to you. Either politely ignore the interrupter or engage with him by putting up a hand or a finger as if to say “wait,” and let him know you will be done in a minute.
3. Be Spontaneous with Confidence

Allow yourself to say what’s on your mind, but don’t begin with an apology. Don’t yield when somebody immediately starts to argue against you. Be spontaneous but with confidence.

About apologies in particular. Did you know that women are much more likely to apologize than men? Women often use “I’m sorry” as a point of entry into a conversation. In fact there’s a New York Times article called, “Why Women Apologize and Should Stop.”

Whether you’re a man or woman, I’m encouraging you not to premise your statement with an apology. There’s no need to apologize for speaking your mind, that’s why you were invited to the meeting. We want to hear what you have to say.
4. No Need to Offend or Criticize

It’s kind of like the rule of improv. If you’ve ever studied theater or comedy; when actors are building off of each other they use the phrase “and” instead of the phrase “but." Same within a meeting. Rather than argue against the previous speaker or another speaker in the room, build on what they’ve said. You don’t need to criticize other people’s ideas in order to promote your own ideas.

If you get a reputation as the one who’s always going to criticize, you will not get called on in meetings; you will be invisible. But if you get a reputation for always building on other people’s ideas, people will want you to be the one that follows them and speak up next in a meeting. No need to offend or publicly criticize someone. If you really do have a critique for someone, you can save that for after or save that for a private setting. It’s not going to help to publicly criticize people if you want to be and remain visible in meetings.
5. Build Your Credibility

This is something that you don’t do in a single meeting but you do over time. If you build your credibility, people will want you to be in the meetings and they will want you to speak up.

For one thing, listen to other people. The first four things are about how to get the floor and how to talk with confidence, but the fifth thing here — building your credibility — is to genuinely listen to what other people say. And not only that, demonstrate that you are listening.

Three ways to demonstrate listening. One, when it’s your turn to speak reflect back what you heard other people say. Like, “Well it seems like what I’ve heard so far is X, Y, and Z and building on that, I would just add such and such.” Reflect back what you’re hearing. You are demonstrating that you have been paying attention. Really listen. Number two, ask thoughtful questions. Genuine questions, not just questions to show that you’re smart, but that you genuinely want to learn more and listen more to what’s being said. Three: when you make your own comment build on the ideas that have gone before. These are the ways that you demonstrate listening.

Another way to build credibility, just honor the rules. If the facilitator or the meeting leader has ground rules, follow them. Show up on time, stay to the end, don’t be distracted with your cell phone or laptop, be fully present, honor the group process. If you do that time and time again, it builds credibility and people will want you to participate in their meetings.

Honor your commitments. If you volunteer to do something in a meeting, after the meeting you got to do it! Or don’t volunteer in the first place.

And the last thing to build credibility is build relationships. Harvard Business Review published an article called, Women Find Your Voice,” and again these things don’t apply to just women, they apply to everybody. But this article points out that women tend to be very efficient. They show up for meetings right on time and they leave the meeting right after it’s done. Men on the other hand are more inclined to show up early and stay late.

No matter who you are, if you want to be more visible in your meetings don’t just show up at the start and leave right after it ends. Because a lot of relationship building happens in the time just before and just after meetings, that is also important time and an important way to participate; an important way to be visible.

By the way, these photos are all from Craig-facilitated meetings,
thanks to some terrific photographers.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

This wreath was a gift from
Maine Coast Sea Vegetables,
a client based in Hancock, Maine,
near Ellsworth.

I hope everyone has a wonderful
holiday season.

To Help You Get Along
Written and published by Craig Freshley. Thanks for walking along with me.
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