This morning I was sitting in a Board meeting. Here’s the scenario: I’m a brand new member, it’s my first meeting, and I don’t have as much experience in the field as other people on the Board. You can imagine what I was tempted to think: “Should I speak up?” or “Will they think what I say is stupid?”
This topic was on my mind because several of the participants in my ‘just-ended’ Confidence at the Core* program were afraid of speaking up and taking a stand when they started the program 6 weeks ago. But now they say “I am confident. I speak what’s on my mind. The anxiety is gone.”
So I thought I’d put the question to you. Where in your life do you want to voice your opinion more?
Are you afraid of saying the wrong thing in a meeting with high level management?
Are you too anxious to say what you really feel in your personal relationships?
Do you get nervous talking about yourself in networking meetings?
Here are some strategies I used to prevent myself from being afraid of speaking up. YOU can use these to speak up in your life. (These strategies pertain to meetings but they also can be applied to discussions in your personal relationships):
1. Enjoy yourself – You are nervous about speaking up because you are worried how others will evaluate what you say. You are viewing the meeting as a performance in which your ‘respect meter’ will rise or fall (no wonder you are nervous!). You judge yourself so you think everyone else is too. Most people are judging, they are trying to keep up with the conversation and move their personal and collective agenda forward.Try switching from ‘performance anxiety’ to ‘enjoying yourself’. View meetings as an opportunity to showcase your value and to achieve the purpose of the meeting. If that feels like a stretch, then just be engaged and dig into what is really interesting about the meeting. Be present rather than distracted with a parallel conversation about what feedback you will get. Ask yourself constructive questions such as, “What will move the conversation forward,” “What would I need to hear to fulfill the purpose of the meeting?” Try enjoying the privilege of being in that meeting with a seat at the table. When you truly care about the meeting outcome (rather than just try to get through it without any negative feedback) its will shift your energy and make your contributions come naturally.
2. Prepare for the Moment– It’s always good to prepare. Jot down points you speculate you will be called on to provide so you won’t be fully caught off-guard, or regularly take a step back and prepare points that others might want to know about your current work. Similarly, pre-rehearse what you will say in a networking meeting.In addition, in an increasing complex world, we can’t expect to know and keep up to speed on everything. That’s why it makes good sense to develop your critical thinking skills. This way you can show your chops by asking good questions and showing people how to think through an issue rather than feel pressure to sound smart on every question asked (a good source to develop these skills is www.vervago.com).
3. Intravenous Confidence – Wish you could have an IV of confidence shot into your arm when you get nervous in meetings? Well, here’s the next best thing. Harness the power of your meridians to reduce your mental commotion. Just put one or both hands in this hand position (mudra). You can use this “Confidence mudra” either in the meeting, or on a regular basis to build up the effect on your energy. (If you look closely, you’ll see that President Clinton often naturally uses this hand position when he talks. We can all agree he’s pretty confident!)
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