- Don’t let worrying about improper etiquette prevent you from speaking up when you have something to say at a meeting.
- Contribute early on and set rules to guide your conversation to keep yourself on track.
- If you’re not sure when to interrupt, opt to interject sooner rather than later.
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Picture it…You’re in a meeting with a few colleagues and your boss, discussing a project you’re heavily involved with. Although you have thoughts to share, you’re silent. Dialogue ping-pongs between your manager and co-workers. You can’t get a word in edgewise. It’s a reoccurring obstacle, you cannot seem to get a handle on how to master the polite interject during a meeting.
You wait for the moment when it feels appropriate to butt in, but the moment never comes. The meeting has ended before you know it and you barely said a word. You log off feeling defeated and frustrated with yourself.
This happened to my client, Heidi, a marketing director at a sports company. Heidi was accomplished and considered a subject matter expert in analytics. Despite her expertise, Heidi frequently overthought her contributions. She placed a high expectation on herself to share value – and that perfectionism often held her back from speaking at all.
Add to that the fact that Heidi was also exceedingly courteous and kind. She never wanted to be pushy, rude, or dominate the conversation. While her intentions were good, these tendencies lead Heidi to wait too long to contribute in meetings. This not only eroded her confidence but also contributed to a lack of influence in her job. She needed to learn how to break this cycle, she needed to be able to interject during a meeting.
Heidi is what I call a Sensitive Striver – a high-achiever who is also highly sensitive. Because of their qualities, Sensitive Strivers like Heidi often have challenges interjecting and asserting themselves to make a point. You may try to build up the courage to speak, only to struggle to find a way into the conversation.
There are many reasons you may have to interject during a meeting. You may be offering a perspective, providing an update, correcting a matter, or asking for clarification. Or perhaps you are trying to push your team to stay on track. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to interject with tact.
Here are some ideas I share with Heidi that may work for you, too.
1. Break the ice
The longer you wait to say anything in a meeting, the more your fear and hesitation will build. So make a point to contribute early on. You don’t have to be the first person to speak, but try to be the second or third.
Remove perfectionism as well. What you share doesn’t have to be groundbreakingly original. You can offer a point of view or information if you have it, but piggybacking off of someone else’s comments works, too. Using your voice early will help you get comfortable expressing yourself and make it easier to break through resistance that keeps you quiet.
2. Create a disclaimer
Set ground rules at the start of the conversation. Mention that to keep the conversation efficient and effective, you may jump in to keep the discussion on track with the team’s stated goals. This gives you air cover when you do need to interrupt, such as, “Amy, as I said at the top of the meeting, our main goal today is X, and to keep us on track, we’ll have to put Y until next time.”
3. Gauge timing
If you want to interject during a meeting, it is all about intuiting the best time to speak up based on your team’s norms. Generally speaking, it’s best to wait for the speaker to pause for a few seconds before you pipe up. But if you’re remote or happen to be in a faster-paced environment, err on the side of interjecting a bit sooner.
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