Tricks to Getting Your Voice Heard in Meetings

Women in science careers often face being one of the few females at work and in meetings. Some women find themselves wanting to scream in the meetings when they are being shushed, ignored, and belittled for the hundredth time. Some try to avoid meetings all together or feel fed up and cry in the bathroom stalls after their work has been undervalued and their voices have been quieted by colleagues and supervisors. Unfortunately this is a common scenario for women in many science fields.  While their work environments are behind the times in gender equality, there are some things that women can do to take a stronger stance.

There are ways to feel more confident and empowered to speak up and get your point across in those meetings when shushing occurs. And it can be done without screaming, swearing, or being aggressive.

 

1)   Preparation. We all know that preparation can be key to getting things done smoothly. To mentally and emotionally prepare to show up more confident and assertive, become your own cheerleader or get a friend to cheer you on. Reminding yourself that you have what it takes, your input is valuable, and that you’ve “got this” can give you a confidence boost and ease your worries about speaking in the meeting.

Additionally, practice some power poses to fake it until you make it. Amy Cuddy’s research on purposefully shifting your body language to express confidence shows that it can increase your self-esteem for those hard to face career moments. This doesn’t mean that you have to stand like a superhero during the meeting. Practicing power poses on your own prior to the meeting will be sufficient for the effects. Try it at home, in the elevator/ stair well, or bathroom stall for privacy. However, do consider your body language during the meetings. Do you sit tall and take up the space you deserve, or do you sit small and curl up in your seat? Which person would you be more likely to listen to and believe that they know what they are talking about?

2)      Make your message clear. Whenever possible, think through what you would like to present and how you want to word it. Take out any soft or doubting language like “maybe,” “um,” “uh,” “like.”

Practice a firm and clear tone of voice with a no-nonsense attitude. Practice this at home by yourself or with a supportive person before you do this in a meeting. This will improve how your message is heard and received, by showing that you mean business and you won’t allow any disrespect or sit quietly any more. Be prepared with how you’d like to respond when someone interrupts you or tries to cut you off. Consider having a go-to phrase like “I’d like to finish what I was saying” or “I’m not done speaking, but you can be the first to speak after me.” Find more information about speaking powerfully, look at Julian Treasure’s TedTalk: “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen”.

3)    Seek support. Look around at the people that attend those meetings and find a friendly face. There may be a sympathetic person in the crowd that you can convince to back you up. While you can do this during a meeting by calling on this person and asking if they support what you said, it’s better when the relationship is built up beforehand. Talking one on one with this person, asking about their struggles in those meetings and sharing your difficulty with being allowed to share your ideas and work can improve their empathy and alignment with you. You can ask them to make a pact to support each other whenever speaking in those meetings by quieting others trying to talk over you, listening to each other, and vocal agreement or words of encouragement to model the behavior you want to see from the others. Remember the articles on how women in Obama’s white house supported other women in meetings? It works.

4)      Shush the emotion to take back control. Emotions have clear benefits to navigate us and to help us connect with ourselves and others in authentic ways. Sometimes emotions can get the best of us when we’re fed up with a situation and on the verge of screaming, or sick to our stomachs with nerves. In this situation you want to calm those emotions so that your message can be heard more clearly. Take some deep, cleansing breaths and quiet any negative messages in your head. If you find this easier said than done, check out my article 10 Tips for Relaxing a Restless Mind, or you may want to have a therapist help you find some tools that work for you. Calming emotions isn’t one-size-fits-all and can be more complex for some based on the experiences you have been through.

5)      Harassment and discrimination is never ok. Draw a clear and strong boundary to say no. State when something makes you uncomfortable and tell them that’s not acceptable behavior/language. Make sure that you follow through with your boundary to not allow the behavior to continue. Escalate things through to the appropriate channels at work i.e. supervisors or Human Resources.

You may be tempted to let things slide in certain environments where inappropriate behavior and comments are accepted by other colleagues. I urge you to stand your ground as early on as you can. You can be the change that department needs for gender equality and no-tolerance policies for harassment. And by you speaking up for yourself, it may empower others to start speaking up when they are uncomfortable as well. I assure you that you are not the only one uncomfortable or bothered by it, however you may be the only one that does something about it. Even in a department full of men, there are most likely some male colleagues that are not totally comfortable with this behavior, but they may be afraid to speak up too. Either way, it is your right to work in a respectful environment that is free from harassment.

Brought to you by Lindsey Lowrance, Therapist at Exploring Inner Peace. Lindsey is passionate about helping women in science get heard! For more information & resources on navigating challenges at work visit my website or Facebook page: www.exploringinnerpeace.com  facebook.com/exploringinnerpeace  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Phone: 720-243-3993

© Lindsey Lowrance 2017- This Tip Sheet MAY be shared or reprinted as long as the information is unedited and the author bio, including contact information is printed along with the tips.