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The Introvert's Guide to Speaking up in Meetings

A group of people in a conference room working.

While employers and society as a whole don’t always recognize the strengths of the introverts among us, our more-quiet counterparts often bring more to the table that what may initially meet the eye.

Oftentimes more reserved and less likely to get involved in the acrobatics of social climbing, introverts have been proven to be better listeners, less motivated by ego, and incredibly capable of independent work, all of which are critical skills for nonprofit professionals.

This is why, if you fall somewhere along the spectrum of introversion, it’s still important to make sure your ideas are heard, even if you find it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Here are five ways to make sure that you’re ready for those situations when you may find yourself feeling a bit stretched as an introvert.

1. If you have time to prep, organize your goals

As an introvert, you likely feel that you do your best work when you have had ample time to to process your thoughts. But this can be a little difficult in the meeting room, where conversation can move quickly, leaving you feeling a bit frazzled. Combat this by planning ahead.

Before your meeting, use a notebook to outline what you want to achieve during your conversation. This can be as simple as remembering to ask a particular question, or as lengthy as raising an issue with your team or donor. Preempt what they might say in response, and jot down your answers, with any research or key figures you may need.

Keep your notebook close by during your meeting, and refer to it to keep yourself focused. This can help prompt you to contribute, and to feel more confident in doing so.

2. Be the first time chime in

The beginning of a meeting can often be the best moment to share.

With the rest of your team still getting settled and warming up their brains, it’s unlikely you will have to fight to get a word in or worry about being interrupted, and you will have also pointed the conversation in a direction you have already prepared for. Then, when additional comments and questions are thrown into the mix, you will have already processed your thoughts on the topic at hand, and you’ll be able to answer more readily.

Speaking first allows you to reflect more throughout the rest of the meeting, as you will have made your mark with your opening words.

3. Ask questions instead of making statements

To get your point across in a way you may be more comfortable with, pose your idea as a question:

  • "Have we thought about increasing our blog word counts?"
  • "What do you think of resuming Facebook advertising this weekend?"
  • "Are we open to sending a monthly email to our volunteers as opposed to just quarterly updates?"

It may not be the most direct way of making sure your voice is heard, but if it means that you speak up instead of staying silent, it’s a tactic worth considering.

4. Use a notebook

If you get overwhelmed with the quick back-and-forth ideas meetings usually create, don’t withdraw. Instead, channel your energy by jotting down the ideas and thoughts you hear from your colleagues. Many of us process information better when we are writing by hand.

As an introvert, it can be difficult to do your best thinking in these types of loud or stimulating situations, but writing is said to help us focus better. This means less time being distracted and overwhelmed, and more time putting your mind to the task at hand.

Even if you do not get your point across this time, using a notebook means that you have the benefit of having a record of thoughts to review before your next meeting and make a point of voicing them early on.

5. Be reflective

Introverts are known for their thoughtfulness and keen reflective abilities, so bring that strength to the meeting room. As ideas are tossed out and different players offer their own take on the subject at hand, bring the conversation together, or better yet, pick out the elements you can see are missing.

  • "I think we can all agree that this is a problem, but what do we see as a solution?"
  • "There has been quite a lot of talk of a rebrand, but have we talked about the market research needed first?"
  • "What if we brought those two ideas together?"

Your introversion doesn’t have to be a weakness. Many people may still be misinformed about your true strengths and the benefits introversion can have, but that doesn’t mean you can’t influence the meeting room in your own personal way, or that you shouldn’t. It means you’ll just have more fun proving them wrong.

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About the Author | Laura McLoughlin is a self-professed introvert who is often mistaken for an extrovert. With professional experience as a children's entertainer, face painter, web editor, and PR professional, she can understand the confusion. She now writes for My Own Stationery.

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