This is How You Speak Up in Meetings

When I started work, I was that quiet girl in meetings. I ascribed to the saying "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt". However, I quickly realized that while no one thought I was stupid, no one thought I was brilliant either. Silence is not the path to success.

There are naturally assertive people, but if you're not one of them, I'm telling you, there is hope. You just need to be a bit of a geek, because, like any skill, it's a matter of studying the principles and then practicing. To study the principles, I've laid out my "ladder of assertiveness" so you know where you are and where you're trying to get to:

1. The Mute

Not saying anything in meetings. Instead, looking thoughtful and taking lots of notes.

2. The Encourager

Saying things in meetings to encourage the other participants. For example, let's say that I think (for the sake of argument) that raspberries are a good idea, not strawberries, which is the current idea on the table. I would say "do we want to think about other berries?" This is better than The Mute, but still a little tepid. 

3. The Opinionated

Stating my opinion, with backup. In the above example, it would be "I think we should do raspberries. They have more vitamin R and the color goes better with the company logo"  For this, you have to believe that your opinion is just as good as everyone else's.

4. The Effector

Stating my opinion and asking for action. It would be "I like raspberries. They are have more vitamin R and the color goes better with the company logo. If you agree, then let's get Sam to place the order after this meeting".

I see a LOT of women at The Encourager level, especially in meetings with senior people. I fluctuate between 2 and 3 and have been trying out 4. 

But it takes practice. For my next meeting, I am going to set myself a goal to say one level 4 "Effector" statement, that I will probably write out in advance. I know. So, so, so geeky. But if it doesn't come naturally, then you have to practice until it does. What other option to you have?

So there's my ladder. Which rung are you on?