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How to Speak Up in The Boardroom When No one is Listening?

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Nowadays, corporate offices are a dime a dozen. Even though lots of women are working there, the boardrooms are still primarily dominated by male employees.

Sometimes, women can be ignored or undermined by their male colleagues in the boardroom. They can face challenges in proving their competence and authority because of the prevalence of male-dominated work environments and implicit or explicit sexism in the work culture.

If you face these problems, you will know the difficulties and stakes. The following tips will come in handy while commanding a boardroom and make people listen to you, even when they are averse to it.

Do not give in to emotional outbursts.

Chances are you will feel angry and frustrated at repeated rebuff or ignorance in the boardroom. However, do not try to attract the attention of your employers and colleagues by yelling or raising your voice. It will only aggravate the situation. Even though other people might be attentive for some time, their attention will inevitably stray, and you will have to raise your voice again. You will be seen as moody, rude and temperamental. Your professional credibility will take a blow. Eventually, your yelling or aggressive behavior will mark you, and otherwise, no one will pay you to heed. Keep your frustration, anxiety, and anger firmly under wraps as long as you are in the boardroom. 

Maintain a clear, articulate voice deplete of emotions 

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Keep your voice clear and articulate. Though you are not feeling very confident, try to maintain a loud, coherent pitch. Your voice should be devoid of tremor and emotional influence. But do not speak in a monotonous and machine-like manner. Try to maintain some optimism and assertiveness in your speaking. Even if you lack assertiveness, confidence, and outspokenness, the mantra should be, fake it till you make it. Eventually, you will develop those qualities. Do not wear your fear, stress, and anxiety on your sleeves.

Speak in a logical manner

Your speech and comments in the boardroom should be logical and rational. First, summarize your points in one or two sentences briefly, then start talking about your points thematically in detail and finally reiterate your key points, findings, implications, or any other relevant details from your speech at last. Do not jump from point to point or go on and on about a single issue. Your audience will lose interest. Give equal focus to all your themes.

Use your words wisely.

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Choose your words and phrases with care. They can make or break your presentation. Use non-aggressive and encouraging phrases even when you are criticizing someone or defending your presentation from criticism, such as, “I understand that you find some of my points lacking, but..”, “Thank you for bringing up the issue,” “I have a different opinion on the point you talked about,” etc. Do not use personal attacks on others; instead, limit your critique to their professional ideas, thoughts, plans, or opinions. Do not use abusive words, insults, aggressive phrases, etc. Also, addressing others with their name or surname whenever possible increases the awareness of the audience. 

Also Read: Admiring Self-positivity: Love yourself Every Day

Play up your strength.

You are the expert on your strengths and weaknesses and how to use them. If you are eloquent in storytelling, try to incorporate small relevant anecdotes in your presentations, it will retain the attention of your colleagues. If you are great in debates and extempore, try to put forward your ideas like a debate, where you present them through the conversation of two opposing perspectives from pros and cons. If you are more of a visual person, use your strength by putting forward painted images, PowerPoint charts, databases, and so on. If you have creativity in spades, use it to draw images, diagrams, charts, and models of your ideas. If you are an introvert by nature, observe and listen to other people more to know about their strengths and weaknesses. You will know about their tendencies and will be able to anticipate their responses and reactions.

Ask for feedback.

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When you are finished with your presentation, ask for feedback, responses, and constructive criticism from your audience. Watch your time to accommodate feedback after your speech or participation. When your colleagues offer you feedback, thank them and ask them to elaborate if necessary. If the feedback is personal attacks or not relevant to your speech, politely say so and refute them assertively, such as, “Your feedback was not relevant to what I talked about because..”, “The way you talked was unprofessional and insulting to me,” etc. 

Develop rapport outside the boardroom.

When your colleagues know and respect you outside the meetings and job boundaries, it automatically makes them professionally more courteous. Maintain friendly and cordial relations with your colleagues even outside work and build up a rapport. Also, treat them respectfully and ask for their opinions and suggestions on relevant issues. But establish your boundaries and communicate your expectations openly. Do not tolerate disrespect inside or outside boardrooms. 

Also Read: In These Situations, You Should Probably Keep Your Mouth Shut

Keep yourself professional at all costs.

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When you are repeatedly interrupted while talking or when people keep whispering or talking amongst themselves instead of listening to you when you are on the podium, it can test your patience. Sometimes you may not even be taken seriously despite the credibility of your ideas. Do not lose your patience; you will need a bucket load of it. When you are interrupted, ask them politely to wait after you are finished. If people keep talking amongst themselves, address them by their names and request them to pay attention. When your ideas or opinions do not receive the acknowledgment or admiration they deserve, bring the issue forward to your employer or supervisor personally after the meetings or take the issue forward during the meetings to ask for professional courtesy. Keep your body language, posture, and gestures professional and authoritative. 

Know the power of silence.

Sometimes silence indeed speaks louder than words. If you hear loud jokes, snide comments, or disrespectful behaviors while you are talking or about to start, maintain silence, a poker face, and eye contact until you get everyone’s attention. Then address the offender directly and openly and request them to act professionally. If you are interrupted repeatedly, silence sometimes works wonders in preventing disruptions or interruptions. When people are talking amongst themselves, sometimes your silence and a direct stage might be more useful in drawing back their attention. When you are done with your presentation and your employer or colleague is trying to use silence as an intimidation tactic or making you more forthcoming, do not try to fill in with meaningless chatter or additional information. Rather, try to be comfortable with silence. 

Also Read: How to Practice Active Listening in the Workplace

Say ‘no’ whenever needed.

Do not be afraid to say this two-letter word as much as you need. Stop right away if you try to please other people inside the boardroom by accommodating unnecessary favors, difficult requests, or unfair behaviors. You are not earning brownie points for being nice. Instead, people will keep pushing and undermining you. If you are not comfortable with a request or a situation, do not beat around the bush and be upfront about it. Once you have mentioned your objections, do not deter from them and give in to pressure. The more you refuse, the easier it will get.

The most important thing to keep in mind is practicing. The cliche, practice makes perfect, is the mantra for being heard in the boardroom and taken seriously. So keep doing them, and once you command the entire wave’s male colleagues, you never have to look back.  

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Evia is pursuing her PhD and is trying to connect with people through her writing.

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