When it comes to handling meeting politics, choosing the right venue is only the beginning. The etiquette of properly engaging with your colleagues can be fraught — especially for women, since our culture doesn’t encourage us to speak up. In fact, we’re often punished for it.
A 2012 study by Yale University observed that powerful women “are … correct in assuming that they will incur backlash as a result of talking more than others.” Being authoritative can be read as “mean,” even if you’re just sharing an opinion.
But we say: Screw that. Here are eight rules to stick to in the conference room — and not a one involves worrying about coming off as too powerful.
1. Do speak clearly.
Nobody likes a mumbler — and worse, nobody can hear one. Enunciate. Don't talk into your notes or your laptop screen. Look at people when you're addressing them.
2. Do hear criticism and pushback with an open mind.
Barring any abusive work dynamics, you're all there to collaborate and improve upon what is being brought to the table. Listen to feedback before you respond and expect to have your ideas workshopped by your colleagues.
3. Do share your ideas.
It's imperative to participate beyond attentively listening. Chime in with an observation or a detail everyone else in the room might not be aware of. If feedback or a critique is expected, give it.
4. Do prepare.
Have everything you might need when you show up, like research, materials, or a presentation if one is expected from you. If you're bogged down with other tasks and can’t prepare, send your colleagues an email (with enough notice) to reschedule. It’s the most respectful use of everyone’s time.
5. Don't apologize for your ideas.
Cut the "I'm sorry"s, especially when interjecting a thought or countering a colleague. You have nothing to be sorry for — you’re disagreeing because you have a different point of view, which should be heard.
6. Don't space out.
You're just asking to be embarrassed. You could not only miss something critical, but you're risking being called out when you zone back in (what if you repeat something another colleague already said but you missed?). If you're tired or distracted, take notes to keep yourself focused.
7. Don't pad your ideas.
Get to the point succinctly. Giving your coworkers the verbal runaround just encourages them to tune you out.
8. Don't interrupt your colleagues or boss — unless they do first.
Talking over people is rude, but it happens — especially if you're a woman in meetings with men. Be polite and courteous when other people are speaking and graciously give them the floor. But if your colleagues don't return the respect, interrupt back, tactfully. Hold your ground and get back to your point (using humor works well). No matter what, be heard.