This article offers practical advice on how to provide your input in a manner that showcases your expertise and strengthens your reputation.
Possible Reasons for Anxiety in Collaborative Environments
You’ve likely felt the feeling of adrenaline pumping through your body in the moments of deciding to voice your thoughts during an important meeting, class, or gathering. We suddenly become aware of our heart beating at speeds it shouldn’t for a person who’s sitting down. We hope our voice doesn’t crack before we begin speaking.
While speaking, it’s all a blur. The next thing you know, you’re done talking, and can only hope the reaction of the people who listened is a favorable one. Those milliseconds between us finishing our thought, and a reaction from those who listen are milliseconds filled with doom.
A reason we feel nervousness prior to speaking to a large and diverse group of people, is because we are vulnerable when we express what we think. We place our ideas for others to judge and find weaknesses they can expose. We fear that our way of being will be judged based on the ideas we present, and thereby attempt to make our ideas a perfect representation of who we are. This article hopes to ease your anxiety prior to putting your ideas out in the world by suggesting for you to remember a couple of things.
Implementing a few lines of dialogue to preface your thoughts, as well as setting the understanding of how you intend your ideas to be understood will provide a safer social environment for you to voice them.
Compliment the Rest Prior to Voicing Yours
When in a social setting within which people are sharing their thoughts and opinions, there will likely be many good ideas thrown around. People will be trying to compete with one another, and their sense of pride will want their idea to be perceived as the best one out of the bunch. The error they make in their attempts to deliver the best thought, is to reinforce the competitive atmosphere. If you challenge, attack, and disagree with another’s opinion explicitly prior to voicing your own, you may be doing damage to the idea you present.
This does not mean the nature of your idea shouldn’t disagree with anyone’s, just don’t explicitly label it as disagreeing. By being explicit with who you disagree with, you serve to encourage the owner of those ideas to be biased against your own. Those who perceived the idea you disagree with to be a good one will be likely to dismiss your thought before you even voice it as well.
Preface the thoughts you present to a group of people with compliments of everyone else’s ideas. It will place you under the favorable bias of those who listen. Even if your idea disagrees with the ones you compliment, you’ll be perceived to be open minded, thereby encouraging your listeners to be open minded to what you go on to present too. Complimenting the ideas presented prior to yours, communicates the fact that you acknowledge the work everyone has put in to establishing the conversation you’re jumping into. You make yourself a favorable guest to have join in, rather than someone trying to ruin the flow with blatant disagreements and call outs.
Present Your Thoughts As Extensions Rather Than New Concepts
Building on the point prior, after complimenting others’ thoughts and ideas, present your own as an extension to theirs. Rather than establishing a whole new premise and concept for your ideas to shine on, try to frame your thoughts as an addition to the collection others have built before you. Much like a sand castle, people are sensitive to outsiders coming in and knocking things over with their indelicate thinking. Be delicate in your presentation of thoughts, and cognizant of the sand castle the ones in the room have built. After complimenting them on the painting they’ve painted so far, present why you think your thoughts help put some fine touches on their painting and improve it. Don’t come in with a bucket of paint and aim to splatter it all over something others worked hard to meticulously establish.
Once others see that you’re careful in how you treat the knowledge established prior to your entry into the conversation, they’ll be likelier to perceive you to be helping them in their efforts rather than aiming to destroy them. In other words, present your opinions as an extension of the general conversation taking place. Say, “I’d like to add something to the great points people mentioned a few moments prior,” and continue on to do so. Remember, the goal is to establish a social environment you perceive to be safe in order to express your opinions freely and with confidence.