You may have never experienced being in a boardroom, with the overwhelming feeling of paranoia that you aren’t speaking enough or that you are seeming disinterested in conversations. However, for us introverts this is a daily struggle. Training consultant and Founder of ‘Flourishing Introverts’, Joanna Rawbone has over 24 years experience working with those who struggle with just this, and she explains her tips on what you can do to speak your mind when you feel like it’s “just not the right time”.
“What’s your opinion on this?” “Why don’t you say what’s on your mind?” “You should weigh in with your view more often”
Many introverts will be very familiar with comments like these, and the reality is, Introverts can find it difficult to speak their mind in our world biased towards extraversion. There are a number of reasons for this including:
- Introverts have a think-say-think communication process so can struggle to find the right words in the moment. When they do speak up, they mean what they say, which also has its disadvantages, and they hate being pushed to say something they don’t mean.
- In the fast paced-business world, introverts may not get to the ‘say’ part of their process because the conversation has moved on.
- Introverts are less likely to speak for the sake of it, preferring instead to contribute when they have something of value to add.
One thing is clear though, the ability to speak your mind powerfully so that you’re heard and taken seriously is essential in business. And in life come to that.
This is about saying honestly and directly what you think and/or feel about a situation. It’s being prepared to have the difficult conversations, especially as managers and leaders in business.
Often when we’re invited to ‘speak our mind’ it can be in a heated moment or where there is potential for conflict, yet many introverts prefer to avoid unnecessary conflict. Add to that, an invitation to speak your mind often comes with the expectation of an immediate response, which can put introverts on the back foot.
So here are 7 pragmatic tips for speaking your mind, as developed with introverted clients.
#1 Check in with yourself about whether the invitation is genuine or an invitation into battle, an unavoidable confrontation. That may sound dramatic, but I have known people who incite conflict to satisfy a psychological game. If it feels like a game, step away and don’t engage.
#2 Speak your mind from an adult ego-state so that you don’t become the initiator of conflict. This starts with owning your feelings and thoughts and making that clear and explicit in your language. “My feelings about this are…” or “How I’m currently thinking is …”. In our adult ego state, we are a bit like computers – data in/data out, in the present moment and fuelled by curiosity rather than blame or a desire to prove a point.
#3 Follow up your contribution by asking “what’s your thinking (or feeling) about this situation?” Asking a question like this gives an indication of how close or far apart you may be, and therefore how much negotiation, compromise or collaboration may be required. Finding common ground in current thinking or desired outcomes is going to reduce conflict.
#4 Be mindful of how you say what you say, Tone of voice and body language matter. Speaking with confidence is essential in situations like this so start with your breathing. Yogic breathing calms the nervous system and helps with posture. Use the lower register of your voice, especially as a woman, as you’ll come across as more serious and believable. Don’t avoid eye contact as being able to hold a strong steady gaze as you speak your mind sends a powerful message to the listener that you mean what you’re saying.
#5 Practice before you need to do it for real. That way you’ll get comfortable with the words you’re going to use and the impact they’ll have on you as you’re saying them. To see how you come across, practice in front of the kitchen window at night, in front of a mirror or film yourself on your phone. Remember, you’re the only one who will get the chance to see what you’ve recorded unless you choose to share it with someone else.
#6 Don’t get carried away. Limit what you say to the most important point you want to get across. The most damaging thing I’ve experienced, is when people get on a roll saying ‘and another thing’. This is when things can get out of control. You won’t want to regret something you’ve said when being honest. Think about how you phrase things so as not to intentionally cause hurt, but don’t sugar coat your message either.
#7 Reflect and recharge. Typically, exchanges like this can be quite draining for introverts, so it’s time for self-care. Decide how to ‘unpack’ the experience so you make sense of it and can learn from it. Maybe journal about it, talk with a coach or friend, or even meditate on it. Over time, as you start to reflect on who you need to speak your mind with, and how, you’ll be able to initiate the interactions rather than being called upon by someone.
Next time you’re being called on to speak you mind, follow these 7 tips so you say what you mean powerfully and without regret.