If there is anything that gets in the way of being really heard in a meeting or when dealing with senior key leaders, it is the seeking of validation.
When you find yourself in a meeting or a conversation and it “feels” like it is a lot of work to get your message across, it is possible that this is the underlying reason. How can you tell?
1. Are you physically leaning forward too much?
2. Are you having difficulty making your answers/questions short and simple?
3. Are you interrupting people (anxious that you won’t get to talk)?
If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, then you are creating an environment that makes it extremely difficult for people to hear you.
What to do?
If you are willing to accept my premise that people behave this way because of underlying need to be heard (or a fear that they won’t be heard) and if you are willing to accept that this comes from a desire to be validated, then it is quite simple.
1. Lean back.
It doesn’t take much, but if you just lean back on your heels a little bit, you will notice an immediate difference in how the other person is receiving your words. Leaning in is like setting off their defense mechanisms in their brain. They can’t hear you because they feel attacked.
2. Restrict your word allotment.
Tell yourself that you only have 25 words to communicate your idea. This will force you to organize and get rid of the excess. You might even need to write it down on paper before speaking. The more organized you are before talking, the easier it will be for the other person to hear you.
When we feel the anxiety that we won’t be able to talk, we start to hold our breath, which then causes us to feel more anxiety. The goal here is to reduce the unnecessary anxiety. A deep, even breath (one that fills your belly with air and goes in an out slowly) will do a lot to minimize the feeling that you won’t be heard. It also forces you to listen. (While doing this, it helps to tell yourself that you will get your turn, even if you have to interrupt eventually to do so. Just give it some time and make sure you have settled yourself and have organized your thoughts first.)
Do these three simple steps and you will notice that people will respect you more, you will feel less anxious and your messages will be registered more in meetings.