Office meetings and brainstorming sessions are a fact of life, and getting the team together to discuss an upcoming project or status updates are crucial parts of a well-oiled machine. But how do you get your co-workers to lend you an ear when you have something to say? Whether your colleagues don’t listen to you or you feel like your words aren’t being taken seriously; your input is important and you need to make your comments count. We’ve collected seven long and short term strategy tips to improve the way your suggestions are taken into account.
(1) Say what you mean; mean what you say.
You’ve probably heard this aphorism but if everyone spoke with consistency between their thoughts, words, and actions, there wouldn’t be nearly as many misunderstandings in our relationships with others. The same goes for the workplace. Sincerity and candour go a long way in making your co-workers believe in your ideas and trusting your convictions. Taking yourself seriously and showing your colleagues they can depend on you is something that takes time but pays dividends. When they can clearly see your decisions and the results they produce, they’ll be far more likely to heed your advice in the future.
This also works the other way around: (2) Everyone likes a good listener.
Being more attentive to what others are saying by making eye contact and not interrupting them will show them you care about what they’re trying to say. Empathise with their concerns and take interest in the feedback they offer. Treating others as you wish to be treated not only establishes your reputation as someone with something to say, but someone who is there to listen, as well.
(3) The words you use matter.
While this seems like a no brainer, we don’t often stop to think about how our words are perceived in contrast to how they were intended. There’s a fine line between expressing your opinions confidently and coming off as an arrogant know-it-all. Using words like “how about”, “could we”, “perhaps”, or “what if” allows your ideas to be part of a discussion, instead of sounding like a demand or order. Conversely, if you’re apprehensive and unassertive when putting your ideas out there, people will be reluctant to give any weight to your words. Stay away from starting your sentences with “I’m not sure, but…” or “I don’t know if this is right, but…” Be confident in your beliefs and others will have a reason to listen to them.
(4) Confidence can be fostered with preparation.
You can lay the groundwork for your meetings by structuring the responses and feedback you want to share, in advance. Writing your thoughts down on your notepad or computer to take to the meeting will give you a visual tool to help you see what still needs to be said. Also, using a whiteboard or projector helps others visualise your points. Using these tools allows you to pick your words carefully, which will add clarity and certainty to your ideas.
After you’ve found the right words and the confidence to say them, (5) how you say them is just as important as what you’re saying.
Volume, timbre, and register all affect how your message is received. When discussions get heated it’s easy for voices to rise in pitch and volume which brings a sense of hostility along with it. This can also push our voices into a higher register that distorts the quality, or timbre, of our voice. None of these things are going to help convey your message. On the other hand, a quiet and shaky delivery sucks the confidence and conviction out of your words.
(6) “Stand up straight when you’re talking to me!”
Body language is another key aspect of how our words are received. Are you sitting up straight like your mother always told you, or slouching comfortably in the office chair? Do you use your hands to add emphasis to the points you’re making, or are they clasped together in your lap or stuck inside your jeans? When our bodies move our brains move. Walking around while speaking will get your hand gestures into the communication mix and your movement will command attention without demanding it. This provokes interaction and will project confidence while allowing your delivery to complement your message and send the right signals to those watching you.
But hey, we get it, not everyone likes opening themselves up to the judgment and criticism of people we spend most of our working hours with. As more and more companies look for alternative ways of communication and brainstorming, introverts are being given multiple outlets to share their ideas. Whether it’s the ubiquity of Slack in the workplace, or working remotely and relying on emails to fire off ideas after a Skype group chat; employers are realising we don’t all communicate the same way. Anonymous feedback forms are a great way to share your thoughts with your teammates without worrying about fist fights, and don’t underestimate the power a sticky note placed on a co-workers computer screen to bring their attention to that Asana task that’s been sitting there for weeks. With our continued reliance on messaging apps and conversations that don’t require face-to-face interaction, you don’t need to get stressed out when the time comes to share comments and concerns. Just let your team know your communication preferences!
Now, make it happen!
No matter how you decide to do it, expressing yourself in the workplace will make the time you spend there less stressful and more rewarding. Once you speak to your workmates more effectively, they’ll come to appreciate everything you bring to the team!