If you’re shy, you know that your silence in a meeting is not because you don’t have plenty of great ideas to share. It just means you have a little bit of trouble finding the courage to share them.
This is a challenge shy people face often, but it can be overcome with practice. And soon enough, you will have given your confidence the boost it needs.
We asked members of Forbes Coaches Council for their best tips on overcoming shyness so that you can get more of your great ideas out in the open. Their advice hints at being kinder to yourself and more.
All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.
1. Set A Goal Of Saying One Thing At Each Meeting
It’s hard for individuals to speak up at meetings if they are used to staying quiet. Set a goal to say one thing at each meeting for a week. If you have 10 meetings scheduled for you to attend, that’s 10 chances to voice your input. It will get easier as you practice. Keep a log of times when you have spoken up. You will be amazed at your progress. – Kathy Lockwood, Blue Water Leadership Coaching
2. Advocate For Others First
This sounds crazy, but you already know it’s easier to advocate for others than for yourself. I’ve worked with clients to mentally create an alter ego that is a more confident version of themselves. If you can pretend to be your confident self and speak for that person, you’ll get the practice you need at speaking up and getting your ideas heard. Eventually, you’ll become that confident you. – Jessica Sweet, Wishingwell Coaching
3. Prepare And Focus On The ‘What’ To Reduce Timidness
Preparing input using “what” questions reduces timidness because you will engage in a cognitive rather than emotional process. Whether on paper or in your mind, the process is the same. Before speaking, examine the following: (1) What led you to your thought? (2) What is the essence of your thought? (3) What is the evidence that supports your thinking? and (4) What is your desired outcome? Go get ’em! – Louis Carter, Best Practice Institute
4. Write It Down First
If verbalizing your thoughts face-to-face, or speaking up in meetings is a challenge, start by writing ideas down. Some people perform better with notes and practice, so take time to structure what you want to say and use your written thoughts as a guide for verbal delivery. Boost confidence knowing you’ve given input ample thought. Read over notes to practice delivery. – Adrienne Tom, Career Impressions
5. Planning Your Comments
For shy or introverted people, spontaneous responses can seem stressful. Instead of expecting yourself to act like your outgoing colleagues, embrace your own nature. When you have a meeting or presentation, plan and rehearse what you plan to say. Go over it aloud, maybe even with a colleague, until you are comfortable. This may relieve some anxiety. Eventually, you may need less preparation. – Amie Devero, Amie Devero Coaching & Consulting
6. Quiet The Ever-Present Voice In Your Head
You have great things to say. But we take a moment to ponder, “Is this a good comment?” By the time you are done processing, the moment is gone. Or someone else says what you were about to say! The key is to quiet the questioning voice in your head. It’s the ever-present Second-Guesser. Its voice is meant to keep us safe, but often it keeps us small. Try it for a day. Raise your hand and share. – Cara Heilmann, Ready Reset Go
7. Use The Language Of Professionalism
Hesitation in speaking up in a group is fear of vulnerability. Instead of stating an opinion or position, hypothesize or frame ideas as questions. For example, “What if we did X?” Testing rather than positing ideas avoids the “backed into a corner” feeling and invites others to build on your ideas. Collaboration is where innovation is born. – Elaine Rosenblum, J.D., ProForm U®
8. Voice Your Input Everywhere You Can
Joining a public speaking group, speaking up at a PTA meeting, leading a discussion at church, and volunteering within any association can be a great way to build confidence. You don’t need to write a speech or perform on video for your voice to matter, but you need to take small steps and action that puts your influence on record and where you can receive and be open to feedback. Seek all forums. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
9. Think, Pair, Share
There is a common facilitation tactic called Think, Pair, Share that can be applied individually. (It’s pretty self-explanatory). Take time to think on your own. Sketch, write or storyboard out what you’re thinking through. Allow it to be messy, then organize it into a story. Then, find someone you trust and say it to them to build confidence and adjust. Then share it with the masses. – Andrew Hagerman, The Design Gym
10. Put The Spotlight On Your Audience
Many people suffer from the “spotlight effect.” We think our audiences see every mistake and every nervous tick. This is generally not the case. Take the focus off yourself and put it on achieving your objective instead, addressing what your audience wants and needs. By shifting the spotlight from you to them, it is easier to get out of your head and deliver your message more effectively. – G. Riley Mills, Pinnacle Performance Company
11. Challenge Your Assumptions
Not good enough or smart enough? Discover your assumptions. These are ideas and beliefs we think to be true and that may be holding us back. Test them with a new behavior. Ask yourself: “What is one very small thing that I can do differently to challenge my assumption?” Then observe what happens as a result. Gather data to understand the accuracy of your assumption so you can create a positive shift. – Maria Pastore, Maria Pastore Coaching
12. Anticipate The Questions
One of the best ways to voice your input is to anticipate the questions before you have an opportunity to speak. This means intentionally evaluating opportunities or challenges, then organizing your thoughts in advance of meetings, brainstorming sessions or important conversations. Being prepared gives you the courage to confidently voice your well-thought-out position without having to wing it. – L. Lavon Gray, Ph.D., Lavon Gray Consulting Group
13. Create A Bulleted Outline
I suggest creating an outline (bullets only) of what you want to say and then practice by leaving yourself a voicemail. Pay close attention to your tone, pace and inflection. Use the old marketing axiom: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them it, and then tell them what you just told them. – John Boyens, Boyens Group, Inc.