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Confidently speaking up with clients

Why is it so hard to speak up in meetings? How do you avoid sounding foolish and dumb? How can you feel more confident in conversations?

Always searching for the right words to say so that you can sound smart? No one left impressed, sounding like someone who didn't really know what they're doing? Yet, behind the scenes you are very confident in what you do and your have good skill at your profession? You know your craft but you just have a hard time articulating your thoughts. Especially in real time conversations with others.

Well, there is no reason to feel bad. Not many of us were taught how to have good confident conversations. I have been working for quite some time and it took me a while before I started feeling confident in conversations and also when I had to do presentations in front of audiences big and small.

I want to share a few simple things that have helped me find my way and BE more confident.

Slow down.

Your mouth doesn't work nearly as fast as your brain. You'll end up stumbling over your words which leads to more excitement and nerves and which causes you to stumble more! Address these by intentionally slowing down so that you can collect your thoughts. I even put the word "PAUSE" in my notes so that I can remind myself to slow down!

1. Speak in small bursts without using filler words in between. Take your time and find a rhythm that syncs with how you process your thoughts. Leave spaces in your speech to give you time to process what you really want to say and that also gives you the room to breathe. Breathing slowly and deep breathes will help you relax during conversations.

2. Allow for silence in between responses. For most, silence is awkward so we try to fill it with meaningless words and responses. Next time when somebody speaks, resist the urge to respond right away. Instead count to three or more before you respond. You'll find that might allow the conversation to go deeper because now there is time for everyone to gather their thoughts and complete their ideas well before they respond.

You don't need to have all the answers.

There's nothing wrong with saying "I don't know". Embrace this. It is liberating. When all eyes are on you and you feel the pressure to respond. You feel obligated to respond. But it turns out the only person creating that pressure is yourself. Anything that requires critical thinking takes a while for you to fully process what is being presented to you. To overcome this stop trying to respond to everything right away. Instead, try to be more honest and say "You know what, I am still not quite sure yet, I'd like to collect my thoughts on this." That will remove the pressure off you because you give yourself permission to continue to think and everyone else will be aware of that. Wait until you have a response to follow up with. If they continue talking without you then that is perfectly fine. Once your thoughts have caught up then gently return to the conversation. It is much better to be transparent. You will find that people are okay with it and in fact it helps create a safe space for everyone in the conversation.

Be genuinely curious.

Ask more questions. How do you add something meaningful to a conversation? When you don't feel part of the conversation change your approach. Instead of coming to conversations feeling like you have to say something just lean in, focus on actively listening to what the others were saying. With genuine curiosity. And ask a question rather than trying to answer. By asking more questions the conversation won't be about you at all. The pressure to sound smart will disappear and you will feel like you have a meaningful role in the conversation. This will help with personal interactions and especially when working with clients. Asking a series of why, how and what questions helps you to invite the other person into the discussion and explore possibilities with you. Your curiosity will help them arrive at their own conclusions and find clarity. This is the most valuable thing for anyone you're helping.

Next time when you're having a conversation with somebody and you feel that urge to answer, respond with a question instead. Ask one thing that digs deeper into the last thing they just said. Forget about your agenda and what you want to add to the conversation. Instead be generous and be curious about what others are saying. By doing this you will become a much better listener and feel more comfortable in engaging with others.

I recommend the book "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay Stanier.

If you want to be more confident in your conversations then remember these three things:

1. Slow down

2. You don't need to have all the answers

3. Be genuinely curious

Work with Alan W

"Solving niche challenges founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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