Is it rude to interrupt someone when they are talking? It depends. To be heard in meetings, you should never wait your turn, you should take your turn.
If you grow up in a culture that tells women to respect authority and never interrupt when others are talking, this episode is for you.
How to assert yourself without being rude? This episode will share 5 tips on how to speak in meetings and get your voice heard. And I will help overcome your anxiety to step out of your comfort zone.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve already made the 1st biggest step!
There is no perfect moment for speaking in meetings
You have great ideas and courage for public speaking. Yet that’s not enough.
Last weekend, I went to a friend’s home for a barbecue. After the meal, we started cracking jokes. I noticed that everyone’s head was turning left and right, just like watching a football game.
In fact, this is similar to situations in meeting rooms in corporate America. It’s quite a sport to get a chance to speak.
When I first started my career in the US, every time I tried to say something at a meeting, somebody already started talking right ahead of me.
I told myself, OK I have to speak right after him. And the same thing happened again. Always 0.01 second ahead of me.
How to be heard and speak up, without interrupting others?
Sometimes, you have to interrupt or else that person will keep talking. But there are rude ways to do it and polite ways to do it.
Luckily one of my good friend and former colleague told me her secret:
Four words: I just say it
If you have something to say, you just say it, right there.
It has three levels
First: do not wait to be heard
- You don’t need to wait for the person speaking to pause and indicate he finished;
- You don’t need to wait for your manager nor the meeting host to indicate it’s your turn;
- You don’t need to wait for anybody to signal that ‘you go first’;
- You don’t need to make small talk and say “I would like to say something”;
As long as you start talking, the audience would turn their heads to you.
Speaking in meetings in Asia is like crossing an intersection with police and traffic lights.
The police are the authority, who decides when you can go and wait. The traffic lights send a clear signal to everyone when it’s your turn.
By contrast, speaking in meetings in western culture is more like a sports game, it’s tense but there are rules behind the seeming chaos.
You need to be fast and furious-just kidding. You just need to be fast, confident and just go all the way.
Know when to take your moment.
Second, how to snatch my turn without interrupting others?
Listen and pay attention to what others are saying. So, you know that person has said his main point, and the sentence is about to finish.
In Asia, most of the time people focus on organizing their own thoughts in their minds, before they speak.
Here in America, I focus all my attention on listening to the others.
Third, how to disagree without being rude?
You can add a short phrase before your argument, to complement the other person, but in fact, the goal is to introduce your own argument.
- This is a good point, and
- Yes, and
- I heard what you say, and
This is an apple
You: Yes, and this is actually an orange
This is an apple.
You: I heard what you say, and from a different perspective, this is an orange.
This is an apple.
You: This is a good point and this is actually an orange.
You can disagree with someone and still make that person feel respected as if you are extending their idea.
It’s all about how you package the message.
Being heard and speaking up in America is more about stepping out of your comfort zone than just speaking up.
Many people grew up in culture and families that tell us, especially young women, that you need to be respectful to authorities. It’s rude to interrupt when others are talking.
However, it’s a completely different set of rules here.
Every day, we observe, adapt and sometimes, overcome our own upbringing.
- I grew up in a culture that focuses on authority, now I live in a culture that embraces individuality.
- I grew up in classrooms where children have to raise their hands for permission before we can go to the bathroom. While in an American classroom, I saw my classmates just left the classroom and came back chewing his breakfast sandwich after ten minutes.
- From a culture that told me I’m not allowed to disagree with teacher and parents. To a culture that trained me to speak up, “interrupt” and disagree, while still making people feel respected.
Now realized, it’s exactly these moments that redefined who I am and reshaped my value.
Every year when I visit my parents in China, they probably noticed that I’m changing. For reasons they might not understand, I’m no longer the ‘good girl’ that they used to know. The daughter who would just agree and do what the parents say.
I’m proud of my changes, as a result of constant independent thinking and stepping out of my comfort zone. Yet, I’m grateful that my parents are doing their best to adapt to my changes, to keep up with their daughter as much as they can.
Given the historical background they grow up, it’s a much further gap and greater endeavor for them to understand my thoughts in their environment.
And what’s your experience speaking in meetings? Love to see your comments below!
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