Do you ever feel like you are invisible? You’ll be at a social event or in a team meeting at work:- you’ll have planned for either event, be it your appearance or researched what you needed to say, but you somehow end up feeling like you are on the side-lines, undervalued or even ignored.
There are a number of reasons why you might feel like you are ‘on mute’. Maybe you are lacking in confidence? Perhaps you are a little shy? Or maybe it’s just down to the way in which you actually use your voice. Either way, your self-esteem might need a little boost, so if you are wondering what you can do to make yourself heard, here are some useful tips.
- Remember they invited you – you are there because they think you have something to offer. What more of a confidence boost do you need? You are not expected to provide all the answers to a problem, so sit back, listen and offer your opinion. If speaking up is awkward, maybe ask a question first to get clarification, then use your idea as a response.
- Give people credit – if you struggle to speak up in a meeting, start small by building your confidence talking about other people. If you notice someone was about to speak and got interrupted, offer them a helping hand and ask them what they were going to say. You’ll soon feel less self-conscious and will be more able to talk for yourself after a bit of practise.
- Get on the agenda – if you know you have little chance of getting heard in a busy meeting with lots of boisterous people, go to the meeting organiser and ask for your topic to be put on the agenda. Your place under the spotlight is now guaranteed.
- Virtual meetings etiquette – it’s easy to be side-lined online. Make sure you have no gremlins before you join and can use your camera, microphone and also share a screen if you need to. Close any applications that might throw up an alert and distract you. Maintain eye contact with the camera when you are speaking, but look at your colleagues when you are listening. If your eyes wander off the screen, your colleague’s attention will drift away, too.
- Look at your Posture – the position of your body has a huge impact on your voice. If your head is too far forwards or back, the quality of your voice changes and not for the better. Think about your body’s centre of gravity and ensure you are in a nice straight line from your head right down through your spine – when you have it just right, your voice will sound clear and project perfectly.
- Breathe – if you are gasping for breath, your words will make you sound anxious and unprepared. Calm share a great breathing technique where you imagine the breath filling up your whole body, not just your lungs. Learn to breathe with full, long breaths while you are speaking and you’ll improve your volume and your confidence.
- Focus – your body might be able to multi-task, but your mind can’t. By thinking about too much at once, you put the brakes on your potential to do something well. Learn to be present and in the moment. A great way to do this is to explore mindfulness and meditation, as this requires you to control your mind and banish thoughts. Just 10 minutes a day will make a huge difference, developing a skill that will enable you to deliver content without countless interruptions from your busy mind.
- It’s not personal – your friends did not talk over you because you are boring. Some people are just born interrupters. They could be excited to see you or are just really eager to talk to you. Okay, so their manners could use a little work, but they aren’t a bad person. Some people are just inconsiderate and oblivious. If the ‘interrupter’ is a stranger, again it’s not personal, as they are just breezing through your conversation and not looking to make new friends.
- Adjust your speaking style – we aren’t telling you to turn into a booming bore who roars at everyone. If you have a softly spoken manner, some people will find you unengaging , especially in a bustling group where it’s hard to hear you. Try and project your voice from your belly and give it a bit of volume. Overcome any shyness, lift your head up, don’t mumble and avoid saying fillers such as ‘umm’. Try and inject a little expression and animation into your voice and you’ll be chatting away with someone in no time at all.
- Know your audience – don’t be a conversation killer by bringing in a topic that nobody wants to talk about. There is no point learning how to improve your voice and deal with interrupters if nobody wants to hear what you have to say. You will not share the same values of everyone in the conversation, so stay away from tricky or inappropriate topics. Instead, share funny stories that others can relate to.
- Make an impression – avoid making the mistakes that put people off talking to you. Poor listening skills or being opinionated will guarantee you a place on the sidelines. Think about your appearance and your body language. You don’t need to be dressed up so much that even Joan Collins would look shabby, and you certainly don’t need to be brimming with confidence. Dress smartly and carry yourself well to ensure you don’t enter an event on the back foot.
- Be nice to yourself – it’s very easy to be too hard on yourself. You would never criticise your friends the way you do yourself, so cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done now and then. You deserve it.
- Move – yes we know! When you are feeling down in the dumps the last thing you want to do is bloody exercise. But we all remember that great feeling we get on the way home from the gym and it’s all down to those feel-good hormones. Exercise will release endorphins that will improve our motivation and increase our confidence. Get those trainers on and go for a 5 minute walk. Go on…
- Celebrate every win – even the little ones! Reply to an email. Pay a bill. Eat breakfast. Smile at someone. Tidy your desk. Get out of your PJs. Celebrate winning at life at every opportunity – it feels great and boosts your mood no end.
We hope these tips will help you improve your confidence and get your voice heard. With a little practice, you’ll find it easier to contribute at work and at social events in no time at all.