Most of us get the jitters when it is our turn to speak. Be it at meetings, while making a presentation, or just asking a curious question. It happens even if we know what we have to say is important.

What is happening here? A common worry is that we might ramble and go into a tangent, or that our ideas would not be good enough. Thus, as author Glenn Llopis points out, “In today’s workplace, more people are keeping quiet, and are just going with the flow, thinking that this is the best way to advance, get noticed.”

However, this survival mechanism is passé now. Expressing yourself is a way to show that you care about the team’s discussion, and that you have something to contribute. It is a way to show you are engaged. So, if you have something to share, here are some tips that’ll help you say it right:

  1. Make sure it’s you. Share something you believe in. And with certainty. Else, no one else is going to believe you! Authenticity and conviction are both crucial, to win over an audience. Why? It is just how our brains are designed.

The moment our brain perceives uncertainty or confusion, it translates that into a threat. This, in turn releases cortisol, a stress hormone that disrupts memory, depresses the immune system, and increases the risk of high blood pressure and depression. Certainly not the impact you want.

  1. Don’t disqualify yourself. This means not using phrases like ‘I think’, ‘I guess’, ‘maybe’, or even something like “I’m sorry if I’m saying something wrong”. This happens when we are nervous, or seek approval from people. However, research shows that they negate the speaker’s credibility.

For example, when Caroline Kennedy, US Ambassador to Japan, was running for the New York Senate, she conducted a live interview to give herself a more personal edge. But, because of her extensive use of fillers, she lost much of her credibility. Reporters claimed that her use of “cringing verbal tics showed her inexperience.”

  1. Leave your listeners on a positive note. Or a hopeful action step that emerges from your message. Even if what you have to say isn’t the best news. This practice helps keep our brain away from the fight or flight mode. In a calm, positive state, we are more creative, and build better relationships.

In the face of negative news, like layoffs, loss of a project, or budget cuts, highlighting the silver lining or next possible direction helps keep morale up, and rally people into productive action. It prevents them from feeling hopeless. Studies show that sharing both gain and loss messaging helps people remain focused on goals, and adjust their behaviors to meet the goals.

Thinking before speaking is crucial. But don’t spend all your time thinking. Just take a breath, pause, and share. What other tips do you have, to share your thoughts the right way?

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