Many women have problems communicating their ideas in business. I struggle with wanting to be seen as strong, but not bossy, with wanting to be taken seriously, but not making myself unapproachable. This thought process led to nothing but confusion and indecisiveness. A shaky vision of myself led to a shaky communication of my ideas.
Crashing and burning
The tipping point for me came when I met with colleagues to discuss an idea I’d been working on for weeks. I felt it could put me in the spotlight and push my career forward. I had my research and the facts on my side. How could things go wrong?
Five minutes into the meeting, someone brought up a completely unrelated topic. My instinct to let everyone speak and not be too controlling overrode my own conviction about what I wanted to discuss, letting things get off-course. I left feeling like a failure.
It’s a situation many women go through. We try so hard to make sure that all voices are heard that we end up losing our own. Going forward, I changed how I approached situations like this. Never again did I want to leave a meeting or event feeling like I’d let others walk all over me. Every business-related setting going forward got a plan.
Planning for meetings
For meetings, that meant drawing up an outline of the points I wanted to hit and sticking to it. I intercepted off-topic questions to stay in control of the flow of the meeting. This ensured I got through each of the points I needed to. I made sure to meet with those with off-topic questions to address their concerns. Doing this got my ideas heard and addressed the worries of the questioner.
Planning for networking
I’m not someone who’s quick to approach people I don’t know. You can’t build success without building a network, so I couldn’t continue to let being uncomfortable keep me from expanding my circle of professional contacts.
I came up with a loose script for these events and a target number of people to approach. It wasn’t complicated: feet forward, hand out, a quick introduction. Steady breathing kept me from rushing through what I had to say and passing on anxiety to the person I was speaking with. Getting past the fear of putting myself out there went a long way toward opening up prospects.
Planning for engagement
I didn’t wait for people to approach me. I followed up with my colleagues after meetings by going to their desks or picking up the phone. I took the time to get a sense of how well they understood my idea. These discussions served as a bridge to future talks around my ideas.
If I felt I made a great connection at a networking event, I followed it up with an email or social media contact letting them know how nice it was to meet them. I took the time to look up anything I could about them professionally and referenced that information, letting them get a sense of my genuine interest in them and their business. I always left the door open for potential future collaborations.
Planning for feedback
I’ve had some great ideas, none of which couldn’t be improved upon. I discovered the importance of accepting feedback that challenged my thought processes. Doing this helped me find critical flaws that stood in the way of an idea succeeding. It didn’t mean throwing out my concept at the slightest hint of criticism. It meant not getting stuck in my own head and using the opportunity to improve my idea even further.
There’s no guarantee that every business environment will be receptive to my ideas. There’s no guarantee that I will always find the right balance between assertiveness and amiability. That can’t be what controls me. What I can control is my confidence in myself and how I pass on my vision. I hope sharing my experience helps other women to do the same.