Throughout the past year, I’ve had a reoccurring request from many of my female clients. The request is for support with learning how to be heard. To a person, they are all struggling with being talked over, interrupted and ignored.
The clients span a variety of careers, ages and leadership roles. Some of the women are associates in law firms, others are senior leaders in federal organizations while others are working in leadership roles in non-profit organizations. Each client has come to me frustrated because they leave meetings knowing that their ideas, opinions and thoughts have not been heard.
Through my leadership coaching sessions with these women, I’ve noticed they all benefit from identifying strategies and techniques to help them when their frustration levels start to rise.
One strategy is preparing to speak spontaneously in meetings. What? You may think. Preparing to be spontaneous doesn’t make any sense. Spontaneity is the oppositive of preparation. My clients have learned that they are more comfortable speaking in formal settings because they’ve had a chance to prepare. Therefore, writing down notes and doing their homework before a meeting simulates the advance preparation they would do for a formal presentation. So, for them, preparing to speak spontaneously gives them the edge they need to be clear and concise in meetings.
Another strategy is meeting before the meeting. Although I’m not a fan of gender typing, I’ve learned that most males prepare for meetings by having meetings before the meeting. Men engage in informal conversations to build consensus, test out ideas and gain allies. At first my female clients were hesitant to do the pre-meetings as they saw them as inefficient. Once they began testing out the concept, they quickly discovered that it was a valuable use of their time and helped them gain allies to support their points in meetings helping them feel heard.
A third strategy my clients found helpful was using strong language and stating a person’s name in a meeting. They learned that using powerful phrases and participant’s names to set up their ideas, helped them take the floor. Saying phrases such as – Bob, I recommend, Jorge, I strongly suggest, Ahmad, you’re 100% correct and here’s why – helps them establish themselves as an authority and feel heard.
Fair warning, the changes didn’t occur overnight. It took practice. Each of them needed to make the strategies their own. As one of my clients said, “I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to say the phrases and it didn’t work right away. When it did, I wanted to shout – miracle!”