I have many clients (especially female) who come to me because they aren’t taken seriously at work. They report that they’re very often interrupted in meetings. They frequently stay quiet when they have brilliant ideas to share.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote a fantastic article called Speaking While Female. They reported anecdotal and scientific evidence that when males speak in the workplace they’re regarded as more competent and when women speak they’re often disliked and/or considered aggressive. They concluded that there’s a bias against women in the workplace. There may well be.
But there are things that we can do to put an absolute end to interruptions and micromanagement. It’s probable that things that we are doing are encouraging interruptions and micromanagement. Yes I said it. I was scared to say it. But I have 20 years of data to back it up. Read on.
Case Study 1: The Bi*@h
Part of my work involves going into corporations and helping entire teams to communicate more successfully with each other and with their clients. In one particular firm I worked with the president of marketing and her team. I worked with each person individually, and each of the team members reported that their boss was the B word. men & women. No kidding. They all thought she was condescending and a B#@*h. Which she wasn’t. She was a kind person who wanted the best for her team & her firm.
The president, let’s call her Sandy, was also being interrupted by her boss. He wasn’t letting her finish a sentence. I solved both problems in no time flat. Sandy was hanging on to the end of each phrase that she spoke. She was actually trying to be nice. Lot’s of people do it.
Read this aloud: Hi Guuuuuuuuuysssss. How’s it going with your proooooojjeeeect?
Intention: Don’t want to be bossy; want to come across as sweet and kind.
What’s the solution?
Always shorten the last syllable of your phrases. Which I trained Sandy to do in no time flat. We gave her a persuasive, authoritative warm style.
Case Study 2: The Micromanagee
I had a client at a fortune 1000 company who reported to the CEO. She reported that he micromanaged her. We were roleplaying a meeting she was to have the next day with her CEO and she said: “um this is just an initial raw draft.” “just” “initial” “raw” and “draft” all mean the same thing. Talk about coming across as afraid, insecure and not the highly intelligent powerhouse that she was.
So we had her saying, “Hi [boss], here’s my draft, geta look & lemme know what you think.” He stopped micromanaging her shortly thereafter. After she began using plain, active language, with concise breath groups.
Here’s the deal. If we come across as insecure why would our superiors at work not feel the need to micromanage us? I suppose there are just natural micromanagers out there but in the 20 years I’ve been doing this 98.9% have been stopped!
What’s the Solution?
This is a bit more complicated because insecurity doesn’t just disappear with a quick tip. We can do it, though, with a bit of determination and time.
- You must record yourself. Don’t be afraid. Every single amazing communicator out there has worked on their communication skills.
- Listen to that recording. Assess yourself like a scientist. You take a baseline. Count the undermining words you use.
- Formulate your message into short, concise active language.
Case Study 3: The Interrupted
This client is a composite of many, many clients who’ve come to me because they’re being interrupted in meetings. This is a very stressful time for these gorgeous, talented women. They’re even beginning to devalue their own worth. But I’m not a psychologist so I’ll leave it at that.
Here are the symptoms: Run on sentences and over-emphasis of connector words. I kid you not. Let’s try to show this in print. Read the following aloud:
So i have an idea in order to get the margins up we should do some testing in xyz area aaaaaand then we can try 123 aaaaand see if the numbers go up aaaaaaand if they don’t we could….
What’s the problem with this? Your listener’s processing skills. They are unable to process the information after a few sentences. Interrupting is rude but interrupters obviously haven’t taken my class. Once they do they’ll know how to deal with that, too. I digress.
We can try to train people to stop interrupting; we can also train people to speak in a way that’s authoritative yet warm, concise and exciting. We need to train people to listen and understand better. I’m a Speech Language Pathologist studying communication skills since I was a kid and I still train to listen, understand & communicate better.
I take some of the blame off the interrupters and put it on the speakers. Just like when you go into a presentation excited to hear the topic and your mind is wandering within minutes. You’re blaming yourself: “I have no attention span anymore!” Guess what? It’s the speaker’s fault. But that’s another story.
Look. You’re a great communicator. You’re smart and you tell great stories in the regular milieus of your life. People listen to you and do what you say. But during anxiety-ridden situations (meetings, presentations, interviews, arguments, anytime you want something from the situation) your skills deflate. Yup. No one’s immune.
Do you wanna know why we can’t be as confident, concise, and influential as we are in easier situations? Because our brains haven’t yet evolved to communicate in a crystal clear persuasive fashion during stressful situations. I don’t care who you are. When you’re chatting with your close confidant about your skills and your experiences you come across as more credible more authoritative, smarter than you do when you’re in an anxiety ridden situation.
Are you a bit nervous during meetings? If you say “no” I might suggest you’re in denial. We all have some nervousness when called to speak in front of others. We literally go into fight or flight mode and we lose our connection with our brain.
Change the bits you can control
Let’s change this together! Send this article to all of your friends and colleagues who suffer from interruptions and micromanagement.
Learn relaxation exercises. I’ve got some great ones. You need to be so relaxed you could fall asleep. And that’s what you need to be during every communicative situation. What?!!! I’m not supposed to be on red alert? No. Comfy cozy is the answer to your problems. Fearlessness is the result of complete relaxation.
Use a full, warm voice with concise sentences. Let air come out when you speak. Don’t hold your breath, people!
Get your intonation right. Don’t go up in pitch at the end and don’t hang on to the last syllable. Make your connector words really short–even better eliminate them.
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