1. Get curious about power dynamics
Do you sit in meetings imagining everyone has so much more of a right to speak than you?
Keep an eye on this internal narrative.
Even if there is a clear hierarchy within the space (ie you’re in with your boss or more senior members of staff/those with much more experience than you, or perhaps a tricky client you’re trying to keep sweet), a healthy communicative atmosphere is in fact one in which despite any defined power dynamics, all individuals meet each other on an equal footing with an equitable, adult to adult vibe.
Dominance dynamics are outdated and help LITERALLY no one.
And whilst you may not be able to change OTHERS tendency towards them, you can keep an eye on where you’ve been unknowingly but willingly assuming the lower status role, feeding the dominance dynamic and making life harder for yourself.
They can’t make an equitable ‘temperature’ happen in the meeting if you’re not open to letting yourself add your voice to the conversation with recognition of what you can bring to the table.
It’s absolutely ok and human to feel nervous.
And it’s up to YOU to give yourself permission to speak up.
2. ‘Emotional vaccination’
Here’s something I use all the time both for myself, and for my 3 year old.
I’ve totally nabbed this technique from the amazing clinical psychologist Dr Becky Kennedy (@drbeckyatgoodinside on Insta).
Give yourself some time and space in advance of the meeting, really keying in to how you’re likely to feel in the moment.
I don’t mean letting your head run away with you and catastrophizing.
I do mean imagining the setting, calling to mind the familiar feelings that tend to arise, and welcoming them. Leaning in to them.
A little like a vaccination, you’re giving your system a ‘shot’ in advance of the experience. Once in the room those ‘experience antibodies’ (yep – we’re running with the metaphor) will mean your system is less shocked in the moment.
There’s a feeling of awareness and preparedness that is less likely to trigger our nervous systems so strongly.
How does it look to do this with my 3 year old?
It’s in simply saying to him on the way to a playdate ‘hmm, I wonder how it’s going to feel when it’s time to leave Anna’s house. I suppose it might feel a bit tricky if you’re having loads of fun’.
Or on the way to a party, ‘I wonder how it might feel if there are loads of kids there you don’t know. I’ll be right there, and you’ll know when you’re ready to join in.’
You can see why he’s less likely to be overwhelmed, immobilised or seriously dysregulated by a sudden rush of big feelings in his little body when these things come up, merely as a result of having introduced the idea to his system in advance.
Let’s gift ourselves the same!
It’s gold dust – trust me.
3 – In-the-moment regulation
When we’re talking about nerves or discomfort, we’re actually talking about nervous system activation.
Having this awareness, and having some regulating tools in your back pocket is game changing.
Here’s the thing – our system’s cannot distinguish between being genuinely at risk from a sabre-toothed tiger attack and (slightly terrifying) CEO Belinda quizzing our quarterly progress in a meeting.
So what we need to do to pull ourselves back from fight or flight is to gently, compassionately teach our systems that despite the messages our body is giving us, we are in fact fundamentally safe.
(Belinda is a little cool and unapproachable, yes, but she isn’t going to rip our face off.)
A really simple way to do this?
Feel your feet on the floor.
Feel your bum and back being LITERALLY supported by the chair.
Feel the temperature of the air on your face, the back of your hands.
Notice your belly (I can guarantee it’ll be a little held) and send a really kind, warm breath down towards that tightness.
Slow your internal pace by 10%.
4 – Turn your cameras out
Truth bomb for you about your responsibility here.
Are you spending the whole time with half an eye inwards consistently wondering about, judging, or obsessively chewing over any of the following:
- what others are thinking of you
- what others expectations are of you
- what others would want you to say
- what others wouldn’t want you to say
- what would impress them the most
- what would give the game away and alert the entire room to the truth that you’re a massive fraud and actually are winging it most of the time anyway (heeeeey there imposter syndrome! So glad YOU’RE also in the mix…)
Let me tell you something.
You need to start to catch yourself in any tendency to do this, and to gently remind yourself to start turning your cameras OUTWARDS rather than letting them focus on the internal chat the whole time.
- You have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what others are thinking.
- Nor can you control it anyway. (so you may as well assume they’re thinking good things rather than bad ‘I LOVE her nail colour, for example, would be way more helpful than ‘is she going to contribute ANYTHING useful today?’. And why the hell not? That shade is banging.)
- Seeking to try to know what others are thinking of you is an exhausting and totally pointless waste of time
- AND it’s blocking you from really being able to be present and to get curious about the subjects being discussed, and to apply your brilliant ideas, heart and gut to the situation
BT-DUBS, It is TOTALLY understandable why your system gets you to do this.
Meet the habit with real tenderness and kindness.
Certainly don’t blame or shame yourself for having that camera set to your internal view as a default. IT’S JUST SO HUMAN. And not your fault.
If you catch yourself getting lost in these internal ponderings, take a deep breath, and allow yourself the thought of:
‘ahhh hey there Inner Monitor! I know you love to be here to try to keep me safe. THANK YOU for your years of service and getting me to where I am now. However, I’m wanting to make a change. I’m daring to look out more AND I know I’m safe to do so even though this feels new. You’re great. See ya.’
Then see how it feels to get super present in your listening and active in your focus with others in the room, and with the true flow and depth of the conversation.
It takes practice but my GOD it’s worth it.
5 – Give yourself permission – don’t wait for the perfect moment
Does this fun little inner monologue sound familiar? –
‘oooh I think I have something I want to share on this…. I’ll just wait for John to finish first.
And Sandra tends to like to speak over people so I’ll wait until she’s finished interrupting John.
Now John may need to complete his point.
Ok, there’s a silence. Now could be a good time.
But what if anyone else (someone who probably has a better point to make….) also wants to jump in?
I’ll just leave it another split second before committing….
Ahhh the topic has moved on now.
Ok, never mind. It wasn’t that important anyway.’
If yes, I’m totes with you.
And here’s a really helpful truth to focus on:
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION. THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME.
There really isn’t.
And do you know what?
Nobody else is going to create that sense of permission for you reliably and repeatedly to get your brilliant ideas, thoughts and viewpoints out into the world.
It’s down to you, pal.
Samara Bay is a wonderful communication coach (@samarabay on Insta) who talks a lot and brilliantly about permission.
And it’s a key mindset shift.
Next time you’re in a meeting, get curious about how it feels to give yourself permission to add your voice to the conversation.
It’s simple. It’s profound.
Give it a go.