how can I stop coming across as quiet and timid?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a few years into my career and am an introvert in an industry full of extroverts (advertising). Every time I have a performance review or am up for promotion, I get the same feedback — I’m too quiet, I need to contribute more in meetings, I need to be bolder/have more gravitas/show more conviction. I’ve had this feedback at both jobs I’ve had and from several managers within those jobs.

I speak up when I have something to say and feel conviction for my opinions, but that doesn’t come across. It doesn’t help that I’m a fairly small woman with a voice that is naturally softly spoken (I sound much different to how I think I do in my head!).

I’m starting a new job soon and I really don’t want my progression to be hindered by people forming an impression of me as quiet and timid. I already try tactics like wearing the clothes that make me feel most confident and being one of the first to join meetings so I can make small talk with a smaller group first. What else can I do?

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 271 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Enlist a trusted friend to help you with your voice tone, volume, and delivery. Having a naturally soft voice doesn’t mean you can’t learn to project, and having somebody you trust provide feedback should help reassure you that you’re not shouting, if that’s one of your worries.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I was going to suggest a couple sessions with a voice coach, if you can swing it. Or a voice and diction class.

      I took a voice and diction class in college and oh man did it help me out so much. It’s not about being louder or forceful, necessarily, it’s about having the control over your voice and your breath so you can have your voice do what you tell it to, rather than letting it fall into your default settings.

  2. Tatertots*

    A friend of mine hired a speaking coach to help her learn to speak “more forcefully”, so perhaps reach out to the acting community?

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I took an acting class my freshman year of high school. It teaches you a lot about voice, etc.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Agreed. I did some outdoor community theater during college. Nothing teaches you to project like trying to perform Shakespeare a few hundred feet from a busy road.

      2. rachel in nyc*

        improv class in college…definitely helped me get over some of my fear of making a fool of myself and people laughing because the class was 98% making a fool of ourselves and people laughing.

        did it make me want to be a public speaker? no but no one would say I’m quiet anymore.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Toastmasters is an easy step in many locations. Some companies even host chapters at their building, and some companies pay employee memberships.

      1. Toastmasters Helped ME*

        I came here to post this as well. The projects are build with successive progression and you build skills and discover abilities that you didn’t realize you had. Go for it!!!

    3. Almost Manager*

      This! I have a very naturally soft voice. But because of my acting experience can project my voice and command the attention of a room. In fact in most situations, I’m the designated “get everyone’s attention” person.
      I still have a soft voice and in fact teach a yoga class where my biggest feedback is how soothing my voice is. It’s all about breathe control and speaking from your diaphragm when you need to protect. It’s not shouting, it’s just adding volume and depth to your natural voice. Word choice often helps, use direct words if you are concerned about coming across as timid.

    1. Moose_watcher*

      YES hire a professional voice coach!!! Learning how to project your voice and speak with more authority could alleviate 90% of the perception that you’re too timid. When someone doesn’t project their voice others tend to read that as nervous/shy/timid, even if it’s not true. Unfortunately, can’t control other people’s perceptions. But you can take concrete steps to change the impression you give off, should you want to of course. It takes LOTS of practice to learn how to speak an entirely new way. But if you’re getting this feedback regularly it could be hindering your career in countless ways. Hiring a voice coach would be strategic, much like an actor hiring an accent coach.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, echoing others’ comments about training. The way we speak is often ascribed to our personalities–shy, reserved, whatever–it’s not that it isn’t part of who we are at all, but isn’t an unchangeable part. Speaking to be heard is absolutely a *technical* thing that can be learned!

      2. Betteauroan*

        I love this idea. Learning to speak clearly and articulately will go a long way towards building your confidence and slashing that perception that you’re shy or unsure of yourself.
        Also, get some help from your friends and family, the people who know you best and ask for their advice. You might even want to practice with them and do roleplaying exercises where you practice answering questions and handling social situations. There is a lot you can do to overcome this and you have the perfect opportunity to start fresh at a new job.

    2. RWM*

      There’s also a book called “The Power of Voice” by one such acting coach who works with a lot of famous actors that might be a good place to start if meeting with someone isn’t a feasible option.

      1. Buffalo Gal*

        And get someone use trust to tell you if you have what is known as vocal fry. Basically it is when your voice goes up at the end of a line. It makes it sound as if you are asking a question, and therefore are uncertain, rather than making a declarative statement.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I think you mean “upward inflection.” Vocal fry is when your voice creaks. Both are common among young women.

        2. Le Sigh*

          I want to push back on this. OP will have to decide for themselves what is best for themselves and in their industry, of course. But on the whole, critiques on vocal fry and upspeak are pretty gendered — either because women do it more, or are criticized for it more. There’s a great “This American Life” episode in which they dig into how their women-identifying reporters get so much flak for this, with listeners (mainly men) leaving pretty eye-rolly voicemails or emails about it — even though the main host, Ezra Klein, does it constantly (as he says himself) and never hears a peep about it.

          We do this with vocabulary and accents, too, in the U.S. We decide how the dominate white culture is “proper English,” the right way to speak and that anything else is unprofessional. Says who? I realize this doesn’t really help OP, they’ve got realities they need to address — but I do want to challenge the idea that there is one “proper” way to talk. And that doesn’t necessarily undermine the effort to be more assertive and confident in your speaking approach.

          1. sociolx*

            Seconding Le Sigh here.

            Do we think young women sound less confident because they use uptalk (and creak)? Or do we think uptalk and creak make people sound less confident because they are used by young women?

            And why is the solution always for women to change how they speak in order to be taken seriously by men, rather than for men to learn to get over their annoyance at a handful of linguistic features? (This goes double for racially/ethnically minorities varieties of English – why do we expect minoritized groups to constantly “code switch”? That is, why is the way of speaking they use with their families necessarily viewed as “unprofessional”?).

            https://www.google.com/amp/s/mashable.com/article/vocal-fry-upspeak-women.amp

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              I do think that uptalk can be a little undermining simply because it generally indicates a question, and can make a statement sound less certain. Of course, there is so much gendered stuff layered on top of that it kind of becomes a double whammy for a lot of women in a way it wouldn’t be for men.

              1. sociolx*

                This is a really common belief! Except… in (American) English, we actually only use rising intonation on yes-no questions (“Do you like pizza?”). Every other question uses flat or falling intonation (“What’s your favorite food?”). But no one goes around accusing non-uptalkers of asking questions with every flat-intonation sentence :)

                I agree that lots of people believe that women can succeed professionally by imitating men – and maybe this is true, to some extent. I just also think that “The way you talk is a problem” is not particularly helpful advice to someone whose complaint was that her boss thought she wasn’t speaking *enough*! (I’m being reductive here, and I certainly don’t think anyone in the comments recommending voice coaches and speech lessons means this maliciously. I’m just a little alarmed that everyone jumped from “my boss thinks I’m quiet and don’t talk enough” to “You must be using the cursed vocal fry and uptalk, you insecure young woman”).

                1. Claire*

                  Just want to clarify that I was not suggesting a voice coach. I don’t think the OP’s problem is some pathology with her voice. In fact, just the other day I was pointing out the sexist nature of critiques of vocal fry to my family. I suggested a public speaking coach, which is different. OP said that the conviction she feels for her ideas is somehow not coming across to her audience (her boss and colleagues.) A public speaking coach can help her with that.

                2. E Liz*

                  I definitely see where you’re coming from, but OP wasn’t just concerned about not speaking *enough* – she specifically mentioned being bolder, speaking with more conviction, and not being seen as timid. If she does speak with an uplift or vocal fry, that could well be feeding into these kinds of critiques (which doesn’t mean it’s not problematic!).

            2. ScarletB2*

              “Or do we think uptalk and creak make people sound less confident because they are used by young women?”

              I wouldn’t rule that out at all, but to add some context as a New Zealander, where a high rising terminal was pretty common in speech for men and women of all ages for a long time (less so, these days, observationally), it was a contributing factor in some research I remember from the… 1990s? 1980s? that led our accent to be categorised as the least authoritative across all the English-speaking lot :). I think that’s shifted over time, but it was a thing, at least at one point! And yes, inevitably, NZ women were rated worse than NZ men, but we were all sort of lowest across the board iirc.

          2. Ira Glass Fan*

            just pointing out you mean Ira Glass, not Ezra Klein. :) That’s a really good episode though.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Lol, you know, I typed that not long after reading something from Ezra Klein. And even as I typed it it felt off. That’ll teach me. :)

          3. Hillary*

            That’s fair, but it’s also up to OP how much they want to push back. They asked for advice about dealing with the world they live in today.

            I was in OP’s shoes fifteen years ago, and I chose to change some of my behaviors to fit into that culture. Now that I’m a leader and role model I’ve made my behaviors and clothing choices more feminine so I can make our environment more welcoming.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Oh, I agree, OP has to do what works best for them. We cannot fight ever single battle individually. I just wanted to push back more on the broader idea that vocal fry and upspeak, or any of that, is automatically bad and something to be stamped out.

  3. DC Cliche*

    I’m in an extrovert field and it’s helpful to be an introvert because I listen well/am able to respond in ways that are appealing to the person I’m with, thus forming a connection, instead of constantly getting in a front-off. I imagine it’s the same for you!

    I don’t conflate introvert with shy, though, or being intimidated by my coworkers/those more senior than me. Work on body language if you’re in person, and set a goal of 1-2 “synthesizing” comments per meeting. It’s probably something you’re naturally inclined to do, and it will show a confidence even if you’re quiet. And build up your confidence to push back if someone speaks over you, etc.

    1. Blisskrieg*

      I came here to say just that. Introversion is not the same as shy. I work with some very introverted colleagues that still come across with much conviction (men and women).

      However, I do think some of this stems from being a small woman. Although I am boisterous, I am short and female, and as I looked back over my career I can see where both may have impacted my advancement. (there is actually an implicit bias toward tall people in management)!

      Find some good online courses (I am sure you can find free maybe on Linkedin) that help with body language and speaking at conveying leadership. One of my favorite tricks that I learned somewhere (I don’t remember where) is to spread yourself out in a meeting. Put your coffee and notebooks in a wider circumference than you would naturally. Men tend to do this without thinking. It does convey that you belong there and deserve your space.

      I know the above tip likely seems silly, and perhaps isn’t fair that we have these perceptions, but on a subconscious level it really does convey authority, and there are a lot of tips like that out there.

      1. Forrest*

        >>>ne of my favorite tricks that I learned somewhere (I don’t remember where) is to spread yourself out in a meeting. Put your coffee and notebooks in a wider circumference than you would naturally.

        Wow. That has just blown my mind.

        1. Blisskrieg*

          that actually was a tip for helping women be on equal footing with men, because men do that all the time. I somewhat resent career advice that tries to hinge success on women being more like men. However, sometimes those tricks just work. And really (male or female) if you are very tight in your language or space, it could convey that you don’t “own” it.

          1. Forrest*

            I was just thinking about the difference in my own behaviour when I’m feeling confident and interested and looking forward to a meeting, or planning to take a leading role in it, versus when I’m feeling nervous, resentful or unmotivated. I absolutely take up more space in the former situation, and will keep myself and my stuff much more contained in the latter.

        1. Forty Years In the Hole*

          Guys do this all the time (think “man- spreading” on public transport, etc…though there are other…reasons). I learned to make/take my space early on in the military. No one was going to give it to me.
          Grew up in a time when girls/ladies kept their ankles crossed and their demeanour locked down. Even looking at recent group pics of military personnel you still see the guys splayed and women sitting more demurely – while in fatigues or dress pants.

      2. JSPA*

        Or lean forward, put elbows on table, steeple your fingers, like you’re taking things in an synthesizing like mad. This encourages people to ask what you think; then pause before you speak, and they will get quieter and pay better attention when you speak. It’s a power / status move, in body language.

        1. RC*

          +100!

          Early in my career my manager advised me that I didn’t look engaged in meetings (even though I was) and that by leaning in instead of sitting back, engaging in eye contact with whoever was speaking, nodding–basically performative listening–would be advisable to change the perception that I was not interested in what was going on. She was very correct! I realize this may be difficult if you are still WFH, but that kind of body language does still work on a Zoom call, as does making sure you are framed properly, that you are actively listening, and engaged with the content of the meeting.

          1. Jen*

            Yes — I have learned that as an introvert I don’t necessarily give off as many physical cues, which can confuse or be misread by extroverts. So I try to work on body language similar to RC

          2. BubbleTea*

            If you’re on a video call, try to look directly at the camera sometimes instead of at the eyes of the people on the screen – depending on the angle of your screen and camera placement, looking the video people in the eye looks like you have your eyes lowered. Inherent issue with video calls!

            1. Mimi*

              When I was interviewing I drew a smiley face on the back of a post-it note and stuck it to my laptop (so it stuck up over my webcam) to remind me to direct my gaze there. It helped, and also the silly happy face amused me.

        2. Amaranth*

          Also, if you are very petite, try not to pick a chair with a tall or wide back, and make sure that the height is adjusted correctly so you don’t look like a child at the adult table. And +1 on claiming space — take more than a simple notebook and pen or you can come across visually as being there to take notes rather than participate.

      3. Momma Bear*

        It also depends on the company, really. You can be the same person and be treated differently with different teams. Try writing down your key points so you have them and can mention them when there’s an appropriate moment. Follow up in emails with the team if you didn’t get a chance to speak up. Learn about body language that shows calm/control/poise and emulate a few of those poses. Adjust your chair so your feet are stable, even if they are not on the floor so you aren’t rocking or swaying.

        IMO it’s not an introvert vs extrovert thing (many introverts are just as vocal when necessary). It may also be a woman vs man thing. Who gave you this feedback? Men are often rewarded for being bold and women are often not. Could it be that you do speak up and it’s just not perceived as favorably with a group of men who are even louder/bolder than you are?

        Also, do you apologize for anything? Or say “I think” or otherwise caveat your statements? Maybe work on truncating to just the facts, and making statements vs suggestions. Don’t apologize or soften your ideas. Own them. Remember that they hired you for a reason. Be empowered by that. This is a new start. You don’t have to completely reinvent yourself, just make yourself heard.

      4. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        One of the things I’ve been thinking and saying lately (saying to younger girls/women especially!) is “Don’t apologize for taking up space” or “Don’t be afraid to take up the space you need”. I’ve gained some weight during COVID (like most, I hear!), and it started as me self-talking myself into not feeling bad about it. So I take up some more space – so what?! I deserve that space! Anyway, especially for smaller people and women, I think it could be a good reminder? I hope so anyway – it seems so small, as mentioned above, but that mindset is actually more helpful than I anticipated!

        1. Spicy Tuna*

          Seconding this! In addition to the mental reminders and spreading out materials at the table as mentioned above, I’ve started catching myself whenever I’m standing near/against the wall and have made efforts to take up space in a room that requires a 360 radius. It was uncomfortable at first but was another step in the right direction. I’ve found that vocal projection came more naturally to me when I stopped the inherent efforts to be physically “out of the way”

      5. Chauncy Gardener*

        Yes, actually. It has been proven that tall people get more respect, are viewed as more competent than short folks. I need to find that study. It’s pretty old.
        And I’m a very short woman (in spite of my name here!). Fortunately, I have a big personality, so that has helped.

      6. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, and I think it’s actually helpful to clarify what the issue is here. I don’t think it’s introversion. It might contribute, but that’s not the central issue.

        LW says they’ve been told “I’m too quiet, I need to contribute more in meetings, I need to be bolder/have more gravitas/show more conviction.” I’m very introverted, but I’ve never been told any of these things, frankly the opposite, and had to learn to reign myself in a bit. I talk a lot, I’m quite social, but I also need a lot of downtime/me time to recharge. Being around people, even my spouse and best friends, makes me tired!

        OP’s seemingly extroverted coworkers might actually be introverts who are good at the things they want to work on (or extroverts who are good at these things as well). OP might in fact be an introvert and doesn’t need to try to change that part — they just need to focus being a little more assertive and contribute more, and balance that with their natural tendencies.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, that’s me too. I’m a chatty introvert and don’t have any trouble speaking up in meetings. They do drain me, though. I love my family, but being around them all day makes me tired too.

      7. TiffIf*

        Introversion is not the same as shy.

        This so much! I am an introvert-but I am not shy in the slightest. I also love public speaking.

    2. LKW*

      Synthesizing or being the “clarifier” is a great technique. Read up on group dynamics and the various roles that people fall into within the group. Some are negative, blockers, challengers, devils’ advocate (for everything) and some are positive clarifiers, mediators, etc.

      When possible support the ideas from your coworkers. “I like what Philomena said because of 1, 2, 3.” “I think Wakeen’s idea reinforces 1, 2, 3.” As an observer, help people make the links that broaden views and get to decisions.

      When needed identify the risks with ideas without trashing the ideas “I like what Philomena said, but how would we avoid the risks of 1, 2, 3,? Again – use your powers of observation.

      When you have strong feelings about something – say it. And when you don’t have strong feelings say it. For example, I’ll say something like “well, I don’t avise taking that step, but this is not the hill on which I’m going to die.” and then when I feel very strongly, people will often take it seriously because I don’t treat every issue or decision with the same gravity.

      1. Yelm*

        This is really good advice. Start out by supporting others’ ideas (genuinely and with specifics). Make sure you don’t use it as a tactic or it will read as insincere. However, over time you will gain allies: people will be more likely to listen to you if you’ve shown them support.

        As a Public Speaking professor, the #1 point I emphasize is to speak FOR THE BENEFIT of the listeners. If your primary objective is genuinely other-centered (I want you to learn or be persuaded or agree with me because it benefits YOU, the listener) you will naturally speak louder, be more animated, and gesture more clearly.

        Also, practice at home (but not in the mirror). Sit at your kitchen table and practice making your points with your volume and intensity increased by 100%. Really go for it—do this when you’re alone. When you’re in front of your actual co-workers, you’ll naturally dial it back without thinking, so really over-do it when you practice.

        Finally, be careful whom you practice with—people with good intentions can give you poor advice that makes you self-conscious. If you do practice with a friend, give them clear parameters for feedback.

        1. Betteauroan*

          I think OP would benefit greatly from joining Toastmasters. It gives you a lot of good practice and you get to learn with other people and make friends and networking contacts. By the time she’s got a few months of that under her belt, she will feel so much more confident. They give you practice in all kinds of scenarios.

      2. armchairexpert*

        Yes! I quite often just summarise points in meetings. “So it sounds like we all recognise that the problem is with the spout design, and both Clarice and Rebecca think they can do some investigation into that. So shall we revisit it next time with that information, or does anyone else want to try another tack?”. It projects leadership without having to actually contribute an opinion. (And moves things along when you have a meeting lead who’s not good at crowd control/cutting off wafflers.)

    3. Kali*

      Oh yes, this, for sure. I’m an introvert. I’m also loud and assertive.

      I’m a short woman in a male-dominated career (first responder). I had to learn to make myself heard, because first responders are often thrown into chaotic situations where someone needs to manage it. By just interjecting with a clear, assertive, but calm tone, I usually can grab everyone’s attention. I also make sure my body language conveys authority – shoulders back and chin up with direct eye contact.

      It can be difficult for women. We’re conditioned by society to be accommodating and *nice*. I often say that a man who is assertive is recognized as assertive and confident, while a woman being assertive is often read as being a bitch or bossy. This response (“ugh, she’s so bossy!”) is ingrained in society too, so OP needs to get comfortable with not everyone liking her. It was tremendously freeing to realize that not everyone had to like me, as long as we all remained professional. I’m *warm* to everyone – I’m not looking to make enemies, of course – but if my opinion or expertise is called for, I don’t tiptoe around that.

      1. allathian*

        Same here. That said, things are a bit easier for me because I’m in a female-dominated environment. It also helps that I’ve reached that “difficult age” when I’ve stopped caring whether people like me or not. I’m not at work to make enemies and I’ll be friendly, but I’m also not there to make friends.

        1. Betteauroan*

          It’s such a relief when you reach that age, isn’t it? When you finally accept the fact that not everyone is going to like you and still be ok with yourself. Sweet bliss.

    4. Abbigail*

      I would recommend reading “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Our personalities lend themselves to all sorts of different strengths, and being an introvert has strengths, not only weaknesses like some people like to believe. I once mentioned in a mock interview that I am an introvert and the career counselor said, “I’ll stop you right there. Being an introvert means you aren’t a leader and you don’t want to be one.” I was stunned. At a leadership conference I told a bunch of managers about this scenario and asked them what they thought. They all disagreed with that woman, but they also said, “You don’t seem shy to me.” So again, we are conflating being shy with being an introvert. I think this is one huge problem that has more to do with misunderstanding than it does with being introverted being a problem.

  4. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

    While my industry is different (say, teapot glaze manufacturing supply chain) I too, am an introvert in a world of extroverts. Very loud extroverts. I am slight in stature and have a fairly light voice as well. I fall back on the tricks I learned in a theater speech class I took for fun in college- project my voice, deepen it a bit (it’s on the higher pitched end, which I have noticed causes assumptions about my age and capability) and make eye contact. I try to think about things I may want to bring up ahead of time, and have my info and responses ready to go. This makes it easier for me to speak up than trying to formulate on the fly. Doing this I find I don’t have to be out of character so much. I am confident in what I know, and the little tricks (straight back, project the voice, make eye contact) just enhance that.

    1. Forrest*

      I’ve taught a (tiny) bit of voice projection, and there’s a voice that’s slightly deeper than your natural speaking voice which is you using more of your chest space. You can find it by standing up and sort of zooming your voice up and down a scale with your hands very gently rested on your chest, until you find the place where you chest is sort of humming. Try and speak holding your voice there, and you’ll naturally have a bit more projection and volume than using your normal speaking voice.

      1. Bee*

        To me it feels a bit like the difference between head voice and chest voice in singing as well – it’s deeper, but not artificially so. It’s just another range of your own natural voice, and once you get into the habit, it’s perfectly comfortable.

        1. Forrest*

          Yes exactly— I know it from singing a huge amount from about 8-25, though for the last fifteen years I’ve done much more teaching, training and presenting. But when I started teaching presentation skills I thought more about what I was doing and realised how much I knew from singing that I was using in presentations.

    2. Cedarthea*

      I run a summer camp so I have had to find ways to project my already loud voice but not appear as though I am yelling because I’m not yelling or upset I just need to be loud.

      I often have to teach my youth staff this technique so I am going to remember what you put here so I can explain it better, because I have a hard time quantifying what I am doing.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Yes to learning/finding your “teacher voice” — I’ve been out of the classroom for five years and still have it. Comes in clutch in large groups more often than you’d think.

    3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I do all of this as well, and also learned a lot of the tricks through theater. Theater classes have been the savior of so many introverts….
      I have a naturally deeper voice, but at some point early in my career had started using my head voice (higher, lighter) when discussing things I was treading carefully on or when asking for opinions. At some point a mentor asked me, a little testily, why I did that since it just made me sound like I was trying to play down or undermine my own authority.
      Since then, I’ve kept to my chest voice and just projected “smile” behind it when I want to set people at ease. It’s… actually kind of sad how well that’s worked. My expertise and content haven’t changed, after all.

    4. Jackalope*

      Also, make your voice tone go down at the end of a sentence instead of up. Using a questioning tone of voice makes you sound hesitant. The tone going down often works even at the end of questions. Make sure you practice it, though.

  5. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I don’t know if it would work with time zones, but the Royal School of Speech and Drama in London runs an online course called ‘Voice for Performance’. I took it last year and it made a huge difference to me.

  6. Spearmint*

    I would research body language that conveys confidence and then try to implement it around colleagues both when speaking AND when you’re not. This way you may come off as cooly confident and only speaking up when you have something important to say, as opposed to seeming timid or shy.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah! If the body language is incongruent with the words, folks might be dismissive of the ideas presented.

      I was told, as a short woman who does not speak up at meetings, I needed to incorporate movement. Not Martha Graham-ing it all over the place. Just move more- get the arms involved. Hands too. Leaning in -towards the group- when you want to make that big point. Or, opening one’s arms to show inclusion of the group when you want to address them.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Depending on where OP is starting from, things like sitting up straight and making eye contact could be a great place to start. Then spreading, taking up space, head nodding along, leaning in to listen or comment and speaking slowly and probably louder/deeper. I think confidence is 85% body language anyway and only 15% what you actually say.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’m having delightful mental images of Balance Sheets through Interpretive Dance! And Cost Analysis Mime.

    2. High Score!*

      This exactly! After taking martial arts, my posture improved, my confidence improved and although I don’t speak more now than before, I speak more confidently. Anything that improves body language will help with this. You may not need to speak more, you just don’t want to sound timid when you do speak.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I found that yoga helped my posture & helps me be aware of the space I take up. I think any physical discipline that focuses on form is helpful.

    3. LuckyCanuck*

      Fellow female in the advertising industry here! Canadian as well…so you know we’re not direct and too nice to be blunt (most times).
      I would identify moments where you COULD have been more outspoken or convicted and think about what your barrier was.
      – Did you find it difficult to politely cut into the conversation? Think about an opening question that you feel comfortable starting with and doesn’t feel like TOO much of an interruption: “I have a provocation” / “I’m going to ask a bold question here.”
      – Are you afraid of disagreeing with someone? Try sliding in as the ‘moderator’ role for a bit to get a feel for it. Frame things as a question so it feels less confrontation. “I’m hearing Fergus say he wants to go with Option A. The downside is X and Y, but are we all comfortable moving forward?”. or “When you say Option A is your selection, are you thinking that X and Y are lower priority concerns?”
      – Speaking with conviction. Sometimes this comes across in presentations when we’re too casual in our delivery. Are you practicing before you deliver / present something? Is there someone you see present often enough that you can see what works for them? I have copied a trick from colleagues where they AGREE with someone asking a question or pointing out an issue but deftly explain why that’s ok. It. Is. Brilliant.
      “I’m finding that Option A has too much copy and it’s hard to read.”
      “Oh yes! We found that too initially – we have so many messages! We did a distance test though and it’s going to be great when we’re not seeing it on a PPT slide!”

      I tend to mumble and can lack eloquence in my personal life…but you would think I flip a switch at work. I project, articulate and try to be as confident as possible. It took a long time to get there, but I absolutely just faked it until it became natural. Practice! Copy your peers/leaders! And find a style of your own! Best of luck.

      1. irritable vowel*

        I agree with all of this and want to add that no one is going to give you permission to do these things, either implicitly or explicitly, so don’t wait for the perfect moment – just do it! I think starting a new job is a great opportunity to “begin as you mean to go on,” so you have a wonderful chance to start out by showing your new colleagues that you are knowledgeable and authoritative in a way that may feel unnatural to you at first but will become more comfortable the longer you do it.

    4. Former prof*

      Non verbals are important. A simple one is the frozen hand gesture. When you want to contribute, lean in, put your hand out (not up!) a bit, palm up, and say an attention getting word or phrase – “But”, “So”, “Look” etc. Leave the hand there and repeat the phrase if you are interrupted. The table starts looking at your hand, and you have the floor. Also good for stopping interruptions (point upward like “one minute please”), or for maintaining the floor while you think (point up or upright “stop” hand). Also useful to quiet a larger audience.

  7. Alexis Rosay*

    I wish I had a few more coworkers who would contribute less in meetings so we could be done with them sooner. Talking at meetings should not be how your success is measured.

    However, since you’re getting this feedback multiple times, it’s probably worth tackling. I’m naturally quiet in groups and I find it easier to engage one on one. If it were me, I’d try to get to know my coworkers through one on one meetings to make myself more comfortable speaking up with the group. I’d also schedule one on one sessions for my most important projects to talk them over before a big meeting; that would help me get a sense of what the strongest ideas I could contribute would be and also let me know if others would be on board with what I’m proposing.

    1. Lynn*

      Yes!

      One of my early mentors once told me: “It’s not about who says the most, it’s about who moves the conversation”

      1. Nesprin*

        Agreed. There’s a coupla folks in my institution who are quiet but make conversations work better- they synthesize fractious arguments, ask the right questions, translate disciplines and ask the correct stakeholders for input at exactly the right moment.

        I’d seek to be that person, not the person who takes up the most space.

      2. WellRed*

        I love this and would love it to run across the bottom of the screen during our meetings.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I support this.

          I’d also love it if when you scheduled a meeting, Outlook would have a pop-up saying, “Does this need to be a meeting? Can it be handled just as well via email, chat, etc ?” (Customized to your organization’s non-meeting communications options.)

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes. Introvert here. I had a perspicacious boss once who actually said “I’ve realised that with you, every word counts”.

        I remember a guy recounting a time when he was working as an accountant for the Rolling Stones. Jagger would be asking all sorts of questions, very clearly on the ball and interested and focussed on details as well as the big picture, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman would look a bit lost and nod from time to time, Keith Richards would be lying on the floor, nobody was ever sure if he were awake or even alive. Then just as Jagger had more or less wrapped everything up, he’d suddenly ask a very pithy question proving that not only had he been listening the whole time, but he’d obviously given the matter a fair amount of thought and looked ahead to issues that nobody else had even realised could pose a problem.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      It may also be relevant who is giving the feedback. If it’s your manager and/or colleagues who balance speaking up with contributing, definitely take the feedback to heart – they’re saying they want to hear *your* thoughts and opinions more often. If it’s coming more from the colleagues who like to talk and think others should too, still consider the feedback but recognize that from them it’s more about the culture than the contribution. That’s valuable information too, just of a slightly different expectation on participation.

      One of my mentors liked to advise newer employees to make a point of asking at least one question in every meeting. I don’t know about this as a blanket rule, but one benefit is that if you do set a personal goal of contributing at least one useful thing in most meetings, it forces you to pay attention and process what you’re hearing so that you are more likely to ask a good question or make an insightful comment, not just add verbal filler.

      Also seconding the advice about learning to project your voice (you’ll be less likely to be spoken over IME) and body confidence. The earlier comments about nonverbal cues and taking up space are very useful.

    3. JJ*

      I agree, I think the only important thing to look at is the “you need to contribute more” part. That could morph into “you don’t show initiative” eventually, which you don’t want. You might also reflect on *when* your best ideas come…if they come a bit after the meeting after you’ve had a chance to process, chat with your boss about that, and tell them you’ll be able to offer better contributions an hour or two afterwards in email form and see if they go for that.

      It’s totally obnoxious for extroverts to give introverts “be more loud like me!” feedback, in my opinion, and you will be exhausted if you try to act like them all day. Figure out how you contribute best and how you can make that work for YOU.

  8. TWW*

    I think people doing performance reviews feel obligated to find **something** negative to say about you. If the worst they can say is that you’re quite, **and** you’ve recently been offered a job, you must be doing pretty.

    I’m a confirmed introvert now 25 years into a career that requires me to be a “people person”; my advice is to not worry about it. Your voice will (metaphorically) grow louder naturally as you gain experience and a sense of authority in your profession.

    1. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      +1
      In my first job, I had training on how to give and receive feedback. The trainer said something that stuck with me for the rest of my career: Graciously accept feedback in the moment… but always make sure to take it away and DECIDE if it’s worth listening to. There are a few pieces of feedback that follow me from job to job, but I’ve decided a) it’s who I am and b) I’m okay with that.

      You don’t need to be a carbon copy of your coworkers to succeed in your field. And as some others have pointed out, there are benefits to being mindful of what you say.

      I think the voice coach idea that has been floated is a good option if you still want to address this. But only if you want to.

      1. H.M. Waters*

        THIS! Could not agree more. Ambivert marketer here. Lots of extroverts on my team and a few introverts. I would be loathe to advise the intros to be anything other than who they are. They bring a lot to the team and to our projects. If everyone behaved the same, thought the same, we’d be pretty bland. Neurodiversity is something I wish more companies paid attention to.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Your point about needing to find something negative applies to safety inspections too if your workplace is subject to them. Pro tip: give them something trivial and obvious so they can feel good about themselves for pointing it out, then they’ll miss the worse stuff!

  9. beans*

    Synthesizing comments are great because they show you are pulling together pieces of information & can place you in somewhat of an authority role / move the discussion forward. Even better if you can learn to speak supported from your diaphragm – singing and acting techniques can help. It might take a minute to isolate the diaphragm if you’ve never done voice work before, but once you can figure out how to support from there, it can give your voice a lot of strength.

    Also, dropping your voice – not putting on a fake voice, but speaking in the lower part of your range, can help as well.

    1. Snow globe*

      I was going to say something similar to synthesizing the comments of others. The OP says that they speak up when they have something to say. I am the same way and have also been called “too quiet”. I’ve learn to speak up, even if it is just to agree with someone else. If you wait until you have something novel to say, you may end up being quiet for most of the meeting. Make sure to offer some comment on every topic.

      1. AspiringGardener*

        It’s not about unnecessarily commenting on things in meanings. It’s about being competent enough to have valid and valuable input to contribute.

  10. Elementary Fan*

    Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? It’s an excellent book on introverts in an extrovert culture. She gives lots of great info in the book.

    As for making a good first impression at your new job, can you set up 1:1 coffees/lunches with your coworkers to get to know them? Do it on zoom if you’re not in the same location. That way you can show your confidence early on and they’ll know you more.

    Regarding meetings, you can ask for the topic in advance. Some people like to brainstorm in meetings but other people do it well by themselves. If you find most of your meetings are springing things on you, ask for the topic a few days in advance and let your manager know you’ll bring your ideas into the meeting. That shows engagement, too!

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Agreed. I love that book.

      And also agree on preparing for the topic in advance. My ideas are better when I ruminate for a bit. I would also see if you could try to jump in first in the meeting to just get your participation “out of the way”. I also struggle to interject in discussions in which the chatty people dominate. If you start the discussion, maybe people will bring you back in with follow-up questions.

    2. Quiet LW*

      I have! It made a lot of things clicks for me. I plan to ask for a list of people it would be good for me to meet and then see them one on one as soon as possible after starting as I know that will make me more comfortable in bigger meetings

      1. Elementary Fan*

        I hope that helps! Good luck – and give us an update when you’re rocking your new job!

    3. Lizzo*

      +1 for Quiet. I have the reverse problem from you, LW, in that I’m the extrovert on a team of introverts, and I learned a lot from that book, to the benefit of my more reserved colleagues. :-)

      1. Loves libraries*

        Thanks for your comments. This introvert loved the book. However most of my extrovert colleagues think that introverts need to adapt to them instead of mutual adapting.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Thank you for reading it! I get the impression that it’s often the introverts that have to make an effort, so I appreciate extroverts trying to understand us!

  11. Jean Valjean*

    If you have not done so already, read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” It might give you some perspective on how to use your quiet side to speak louder (metaphorically) and become more visible. I am also introverted like you, and work in a field with similar dynamics to yours. Taking some public speaking classes also helps, I did that a few years ago too!

  12. different seudonym*

    It might not be about what you’re saying about work topics, even though the feedback is explicitly that. It might be more how you’re perceived generally, which can function as a sort of filter, such that your actions are not perceived neutrally or completely. If that’s true, then you don’t need to present your work differently or build connections– you need a different persona.

    Maybe try disagreeing or challenging people more? Not to actually change their minds, but to shake up what they think of you. Hard, especially if you weren’t socialized to compete this way when young, but maybe worth trying.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah. The question and your comment both remind me of a time in grad school when a professor told me that I should speak up more in her class. Actually, I talked the most of anyone in that class! There were plenty of people who never said anything at all. I think she must have been thinking “Oh, Spencer is a shy person in general, she probably needs to be less inhibited in this class” and didn’t really put it together. I have no advice, just agreement that if people have a generalization or a narrative in their head, they’re more likely to view reality through that lens than to recognize evidence against it.

    2. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

      I think this is counterproductive, and could increase LW’s stress at work. I know if I had to basically pretend to be an extrovert at work and challenge people for the sake of challenging them to improve my “image”, I’d be looking for a new job, possibly as a hermit. Working with the existing traits and personality is going to be healthier in the long run.

      Introverts can and do succeed in “extrovert” professions while still remaining authentic to themselves. I am developing a reputation as someone who thinks and investigates and knows my stuff inside and out, and is reliable and level headed, in a field that is flooded with conflict personalities and extroverts. I haven’t changed myself or made myself to match them, I have just adapted my behaviors a tad to boost my external confidence.

      1. Alianora*

        I do agree that people should build up their strengths authentically, and making up a whole new personality is counterproductive. None of what they’re suggesting is anything an introvert couldn’t do authentically, though? Being willing to speak up or disagree with someone has nothing to do with being introverted or extroverted.

        I believe that being able to communicate differences in opinion professionally is a skill everyone should build, regardless of their personality type.

    3. matcha123*

      Ugh. I feel this. I am very aware that some of my colleagues have decided that I am something and will not be swayed on their decisions.
      “Challenging” people is tough because then they can say that your behaviour was “aggressive” and “scary,” even if they themselves act the same way.

  13. Ashley*

    For a longer term approach I would consider joining a volunteer organization committee that matches your interests. A lower stakes real world application where you can work on being louder and focus on tone might be helpful.

  14. Amethystmoon*

    Join Toastmasters! I used to be the shy and quiet type. It really hindered my career. I have been in it for 9 years now and it has helped me a lot. I have gotten a couple of promotions that I otherwise would not have.

    1. I Love Llamas*

      Toastmaster is awesome — I have been a member for years also. Just try different clubs until you find the one that fits for you.

    2. Indie*

      Came to say just that! One big advantage of Toastmaster vs a speaking coach – much cheaper! The other big advantages that I can think of – you can watch the long-time members and learn from that, many clubs require EVERYONE to speak (even the guests), you always get feedback on your speech. Apart from the prepared speeches (which were quite challenging) there are many other opportunities to speak during a meeting. Some are short but you can prepare in advance, some put you on the spot and you have to come up with something that will take 2-3 min. I have been a member (on and off) for about 5 years and I swear my career took off substantially after I joined.

    3. Red Tape Specialist*

      Yes! I have been a member since 2003 (not everyone ends up a “lifer” – you can see benefits in a few months). I was not only quiet, but terrified of speaking, especially in situations where I couldn’t predict or plan exactly what to say. Toastmasters helped build up my confidence, not only with giving speeches but also receiving feedback and support and speaking at every meeting.

  15. CatCat*

    (I sound much different to how I think I do in my head!)

    One thing that helped me with this issue is viewing a recording of myself giving a presentation. I had a better sense of my problem area (for me, an excessive amount of “ums!”) and practiced improving on that.

    If you’re soft spoken, one thing I have heard recommended is setting your voice like you’re speaking to a person at the back of the room.

    You can record yourself to see where you are now then after practicing, record yourself again to see where you are. It feels a little weird at first to be watching/listening to yourself in a recording, but it really helps.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I was going to recommend this – practice in a mirror and/or record yourself. Then keep practicing. Be a little louder, a little more animated – project more. And definitely body language is part of that too. It will come.

      1. Delta Delta*

        This is also a great suggestion. I started doing this a few years ago when I had a change in my commute and had in-car time. I started dictating memos to myself about work and then listening to them later. I was surprised to hear my own vocal inflections and tone of voice (not good, bad, or otherwise, just noted it) and have made efforts to change the things about it that I don’t especially like.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes! My wife has had to do this a couple of times, and it really illustrated to her that what she felt internally and what was coming across to others were out of sync – she has to act in a way that feels very fake and over-the-top to her in order to not come across as flat and dry when presenting. Much less so when simply participating in meetings, but getting a picture of how others see you could help. And then it gets easier with practice.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Highly recommend the watching a recording of yourself – it’s a trick that I’ve also seen done with training people to interview better.

      Truthfully, most of us have a preconceived notion of what we look/sound like in our head, which almost always differs from reality – those notions are set based on how we think we are perceived as children/young adults, and we often don’t realize how much we may have differed from them with time. Recordings of yourself are a useful tool in helping yourself reset those preconceptions, and be more deliberate about about how you show yourself to others.

      They’re horribly awkward to watch or listen to, however, so be prepared for that mentally.

      As a few others have mentioned, as well, reading a book or two on body language can be hugely useful – most of us are very unconscious of our language, and how it can adjust both how we are thinking, and how others think about us. (Classic example of body language changing thought – ever noticed car salesmen offering you coffee all the time? studies have shown a significant increase in their ability to close the sale, if they can give you things to keep you from crossing your arms when you want to check out of their pitch. According to the studies I read in college (30+ years out of date now), the closing rate was more than 10% higher, just by doing a few things to control what you could do to close yourself off from them). When you become conscious of the language you’re giving off, and learn to control just the most obvious elements of it, it can hugely change the reaction of other people.

    4. Just an autistic redhead*

      Yes, and even if it’s just an audio recording that can help too. See how different it sounds if you record ftom a headset vs (if available) some other sort of recorder further and further away in the room (my cousins and I used to play with tape recorders a lot, so I still have those XD)
      Speaking as someone who seems to have an auto-muting funtion in my voice in-person sometimes, it can also help to take a deep breath and “perform” what you say. It might seem like overkill, but if folks are having trouble hearing you, I’ve found that helps me get across.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Off topic, please don’t call yourself “Just an autistic redhead”. If you’re an autistic redhead, you must be pretty awesome, no “Just” about it!

  16. Ali G*

    Ask questions! Even if you know the answer. Get in the habit of speaking in front of groups is part of breaking this cycle and the easiest way is to ask questions because people love to talk about themselves/their stuff. Especially when you are new, it’s easy to ask, “have you ever tried X?” or “Oh I’ve never done this in this order before, how does this differ from doing B before A?”
    You can also ask for clarification to show your interest” “Jane, let me make sure I am understanding you: We are going to focus on teapot glazing this quarter because teapot paint is on short supply, but we plan to make up the backlog of teapot painting once we have the supplies in. Is that correct?”
    Again, it’s not earth shattering observations, but it will help you get comfortable with interjecting, having attention on you and speaking thoughtfully in front of groups.

    1. Deborah*

      I was going to say this. Many people leading meetings like to have at least a few questions and I’m constantly curious so I often ask questions. It can help you learn to speak up, be clear in phrasing so they know what you are asking, be concise and to the point, etc. And it’s non threatening to you and the presenter, for the most part.

  17. Roseybot*

    Are you extremely perfectionistic and need to have the correct answer at all times? I ask because this was the source of me being unable to speak up in meetings, and give meaningful advice, and once I realized that I reached out to my manager and said “hey, this is why I’m like this, is there anything you can do to help me with it” and he literally told me that most people are throwing things out there to see what sticks, and it’s not about having all the answers, it’s about putting ideas out there that might spark something for the group.

    Honestly I hate this feedback, it’s not coaching, it’s saying “I don’t know what else to comment on so speak up more”. As someone who has always struggled with being seen as quiet, I’m annoyed on your behalf. That being said, maybe it is effecting your work? But it just sounds like your boss wants you to interact more with the team? Which is… annoying. Anyways, if you can figure out a way to get your boss to help you, then 1. It will make you see like you are more forceful without having to actually change yourself and 2. get you more interactive. It’s annoying to have to ask for coaching, but if it’s as simple as “I find it hard to speak up when I don’t have all the answers, what is your advice on how to handle it”, then it might be worth a shot.

    1. Beatrice Christmas*

      Yup, I’m not a shy person but I am quiet in meetings so I won’t mess up. I get tongue tied in the moment. I find studying the agenda beforehand helps me prepare thoughts or remarks. I also started really listening to colleagues and realized many of them are improvising and sharing half baked ideas. Its ok if I’m not perfect.

    2. Bluesboy*

      Yes, I came here to say something similar. OP writes “I speak up when I have something to say”, and while I wouldn’t encourage her to speak up when she has NOTHING to say, sometimes it’s a question of dealing with something as a group and throwing ideas around.

      I speak from personal experience as I’m similar, and in a similar sector. I found that when I knew the answer I would speak up confidently, but when I had ideas that might work, but maybe weren’t fully formed in my head, I would keep quiet. My experience changed when I started throwing ideas out more. Where someone else was a clear expert, even just a “Dave, this is more your area than mine, but would it be feasible to use the same grooming method we used on the camel?” When I didn’t have the information I needed, a “I’d like to take a look at the reports from the last quarter, because I have a suspicion that we might be able to use the same methods we used on the donkey: I’ll let you know”.

      It just shows that you are working with the team, that you are happy to work together and throw ideas about, and honestly, even just that you are listening. You don’t have to have a perfect solution to speak up, just something that might work with feedback from colleagues.

  18. Jack Be Nimble*

    Have you tried giving yourself an assignment? Giving yourself a very specific task before a meeting might help you get more comfortable speaking up! For example, “I will speak three times in this meeting” or “I will share two original thoughts and respond to two coworkers’ comments.” As you get more comfortable you can gradually increase your goal number, and build up the habit of sharing out in meetings.

  19. SummerBee*

    LW, my sister, I understand, and have heard similar comments my entire life! I worked first in Academia and now in Marketing, which are similarly extroverted professions where personal branding and visibility are very important.

    I’ve learned a few tips that I can pass on. First, make sure you ALWAYS have a question or comment ready to share, in every presentation and every meeting, even if nothing comes to you naturally and you have to brainstorm an idea. You know that awkward gap in all meetings (especially online over Zoom) when the speaker says, “Any questions?” and no one says anything? Always try to be the first one to speak in those gaps. Even if you feel like you’re talking for talking’s sake, this is what your managers are telling you that you need to do, to project an image of confidence and engagement. With practice this becomes more natural, and everyone else in the meeting will appreciate it.

    Also, there’s a lot of discussion about using a lower tone of voice (NPR host Terry Gross for example talks about doing it in her radio career), and if you want to try it, it can be coached and practiced.

    Finally, some of this is just gendered nonsense that is not your fault. When I was lecturing and was on the seventh time teaching the exact same class, I was not only confident in the material but so bored that I started looking for other jobs, but my student evaluations still came back with “Lecturer seemed nervous” – it’s something about my voice and mannerisms I guess. And I believe that some of the career advice we hear, that “you are in charge of your own career and you need to do more to gain visibility to senior leadership” blah blah blah is just a shirking of mentorship responsibilities that is a cover for oppression.

    But know that you are not alone, and there are some practical steps you can take to address this feedback.

    1. Kittens&Ponies*

      “Even if you feel like you’re talking for talking’s sake”

      I feel like this is where introverts struggle, because we don’t naturally talk just for the sake of it.

      1. Chickaletta*

        Oh my goodness, 100%. Talking just for the sake of talking is one of the most exhausting things I can do as an introvert.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Also, if it’s in a meeting with other people, talking *just* for the sake of talking is literally wasting everyone’s time — either to ask more relevant questions, or to end the meeting early if there’s nothing more to do.

          The funny thing is that I’ve been hearing more and more about the importance of being thoughtful about what questions to ask when (e.g., is this something that’s relevant to everyone, or can I take it “offline” with just one person?) in articles about what are described as feminist approaches to academic conferences. So, in a sense, it feels like “we” have been right all along and the world is catching up. Violating this principle in the name of proving we’re not shrinking violets, or whatever, seems like not a great outcome.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I remember being told that it’s important to say something – anything – as soon as possible in a meeting. Just so people are aware you’re there. It doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowing, just chit-chat will do. But once you’ve said something, it’s easier somehow to something else, so that when you do need to speak up, people aren’t looking round thinking “who’s the hell is she?”.

          Looking at it from the point of view of “establishing your presence” in order to better put your serious points across later on helps not to see it as talking for the sake of talking.

    2. Quiet LW*

      I really like the idea of being the first one to speak after “any questions?” – it’s something I’d normally run a mile from so would probably make me come across quite differently!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        A big advantage of being the first one to speak up with a question or comment is that you get your contribution over with, so you don’t sit there feeling nervous and psyching yourself out of saying something!
        I was pretty shy till I did a theatre degree. Being forced to perform constantly just removed all my fear of it. (Also, if you perform and project confidence repeatedly, you’ll eventually start to feel it for real.)
        I’d recommend doing some improv comedy or drama classes because those allow you to mess up in a low-stakes environment – and you see others messing up repeatedly too. Just make sure that you approach improv or any other drama class with the attitude that you are inevitably going to mess up and that it doesn’t matter at all. And make sure that you find a class and instructor that makes you feel comfortable and gives equal time to everyone, not just extroverts.
        Good luck!

        1. allathian*

          I was shy as well as introverted as a teen. Two things helped me overcome the shyness, one was joining the drama club at my high school and the other was getting my first job in retail where I had to talk to strangers all day.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I have a tendency to talk too much in group situations, so the opposite problem, but the rule of thumb I try to use is possibly relevant to you too – count up how many people there are in the room, and aim to speak a proportionate number of times based on that. So if there are 10 participants on a training, I should not be making more than every fifth new comment (this allows for the fact that some people just don’t speak at all, so if you wait for everyone to contribute it will never be hour turn again). I don’t stick to it exactly, but if I notice I’m usually the first to respond to the person leading the session, or to follow up on someone’s comment, I try to let a couple of instances pass where I don’t contribute, to give others a chance. You could aim to speak a minimum of once for every X comments, where X is based on how many people are present.

        1. Alianora*

          Thanks for sharing this! I’m not very talkative, but I am more willing to speak up than most of my coworkers, and sometimes I worry about dominating the conversation. I have asked higher-ups if I’m talking too much and they say no, they’re grateful that someone is willing to move the conversation along, but it still feels awkward sometimes. Going to try this out and see how it feels.

    3. Mynona*

      I agree. LW should challenge herself to speak more often in meetings. If you plan to speak at least once per meeting (or whatever), then during the meeting you’ll listen more actively, trying to find something to say. Treat it like any other item on your to-do list.

      I know voice coaching has helped a lot of folks, but also consider accepting the voice you have. I am *blessed* with a quiet and breathy (ugh) voice and have a bit of a southern accent. I mean, my boyfriend loves it. But it doesn’t impress everyone in my snotty academic field. When I was younger, I tried to sound less southern. I don’t now because it’s who I am. So, maybe try speaking more often before investing so much time and energy in changing such a biologically determined feature of your self.

  20. LinesInTheSand*

    I do a lot of listening in meetings, and sometimes I’m so caught up in listening that I forget to analyze and form opinions about what is being said and how it affects me and my work. So, are you doing that? It sounds like you’re delivering opinions when you have them, so are you forming enough opinions?

    And sometimes we have the instinct that if someone else says what we’re thinking, we should keep quiet so we don’t repeat what’s been said. Don’t do this. It’s actually a perfect springboard. If Brian said what you were going to say, that’s a perfect opportunity to follow up with “I’d like to reiterate what Brian said and add “.

    Someone pointed out to me once that there are 2 reasons to invite someone to a meeting. 1, you have information to deliver to them, and 2, you need their input on a decision or process. If you’re on the invite list for the second reason, spend the meeting thinking “How can I add to/influence this?” and then do so.

  21. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I can have a fairly loud voice that I can project thanks to voice lessons way back in the day, both singing and forensic speech Breathing, mouth movements, knowing how/when to shift from the head to the throat…heck, Youtube is full of tutorials on this topic! But this alone won’t make you ‘outspoken’ or ‘bold’, right?

    That’s why I recommend Toastmasters International. They really help people find THEIR voice, not someone else’s version of it. It wasn’t easy at first, but I learned great techniques to prepare for formal and informal occasions. Yes, even speaking up in meetings took some planning! I’m still grateful for the experience and training I got.

    FWIW, a dear friend of mine said the improv classes she took at a local comedy club helped her tremendously, and it was also a lot of fun. Maybe that’s an option for you?

  22. bubbleon*

    How often do you feel you “have something to say”? During meetings are you participating in discussions or waiting until someone asks for your opinion? In addition to the public speaking things that have already been recommended, I’d suggest taking a good look at the opportunities you’re taking to speak up and considering if you could participate more actively. That’s not to say that you need to interrupt or be off topic for the sake of hearing your own voice, but a few well placed suggestions or questions in a brainstorming meeting (for example) can go a long way to making you look more like a team player in the mind of people who think that way.

    1. AspiringGardener*

      Yes – I’d really think about how much of this is a comment on your physical speaking voice and how much is about your perceived engagement in collaborative work. I think there’s a real possibility that it has nothing to do with the tone or volume of your voice, but rather how often you are adding to discussions that you should be involved in.

    2. pbnj*

      OP, I have gotten similar feedback to you. To add on to this comment, I’ve found that even though I might not have much to say on a topic, I need to “play the game” a little bit in meetings. It could be asking a question, or even adding your consensus to a topic. For example, I agree with Bob on implementing X, when we implemented similar on Y project, we saved $. And try to let go of the pressure to make a valuable comment. To be honest, I find that just saying something is better perception-wise than being quiet, even if I feel like I didn’t add much to the conversation.

      Also get there a little early and make some small talk, it will help people remember you were there and participated. Even you hate small talk, ask about weekend plans, the big game, or their pets or kids. Small talk gets easier the more times you talk to someone.

  23. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

    First, I would note that these performance reviews are in your previous job. While it all sounds like legitimate feedback, it could also be reflective of that specific office culture. It might be different in your new one. They might have room for a wider variety of personality approaches and styles. Or they might not!

    Second, you note that you are a few years into your career. As a fellow soft-spoken introvert, it took longer than a few years for me to be able to play an outspoken ambivert at my 9-5. It’s an exhausting transition, especially if you are energized by alone time or if it’s difficult for you to speak up in a group setting. A lot of it is just seasoning, which isn’t actionable now, but perhaps it might give you hope.

    Third, and in the more immediate, I would see how you can find allies. A close colleague of mine is very soft spoken, very introverted, but does wonderfully in small group meetings. Those of us who are more comfortable being outspoken will amplify her words in larger settings, credit her, and make sure she continues to be included. That has helped boost her confidence and she has been speaking up more, knowing that there are others who have her back.

    Last, I would see what sort of relationships you can develop in the industry. Start small, and in areas where you feel comfortable. Twitter, professional affinity groups, virtual conferences, local gatherings (when safe to do so!). Those support networks are crucial in helping build confidence and structure. Sometimes that peer feedback and affirmation is the key to finding your voice.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      A few things here:
      I noticed that meetings exhausted me, so part of my multi-step plan was to get some extra rest. If I did not get the extra rest the night before the meeting, I made sure I got it the next night. Another factor at play here is to promise ourselves something good as a reward/recharge for doing the stretch activity that we must do.
      Feeling rested, or knowing I could have extra rest later, did make a difference for me. It gave me something to distract my concerns and it helped me to remember on the fact that the meeting was not going to go on forever, it would indeed end at some point.

      Small group vs. larger group. Get strategic. If the boss is not going to care about what you do in a meeting of say, 20 or more people, then don’t focus on that larger meeting. If you can kind of see that they want you to speak at department meetings or sub-group meetings then focus on that much. In other words, identify the real scope of what you think you should do here. Don’t turn this into “I must speak at every meeting!” if it’s not necessary that you do. Try not to let this get too daunting in your mind’s eye.

      Amplifying others. This is something you can do starting now. If something is under your purview you can endorse what someone is speculating or estimating on. Or if you have a similar experience as what someone else is talking about you can back them up. And there may be times where the group has a question and you can answer it or expand on that answer if it looks like the group would like a little more info. I have gone into meetings and said to a friend, “I want to talk about x, if my tail starts dragging, will you chime in?” (This is where I know we both agree on x.) I have done the same for others. People appreciate little boosts once in a while, and recipients will probably tend to be more cued in when you speak on something.

      Just my experience but very seldom do I hear of people actually liking meetings. Make sure you don’t have any myths that you tell yourself, “Everyone BUT ME is happy to be here.” This so, so, so very NOT true. It might help you to tell yourself- “They are probably looking forward to this about as much as I am.” This type of thinking can help level the playing field. They are not up there somewhere looking down on you or anyone else.

  24. Web Crawler*

    I’m in the introvert-dominant field of software development, but my tactic is to be “louder” in mediums that I’m more comfortable with. So I mantain a few pages on the company wiki with information that helps others, I make small talk via IM, and I comment virtually on what other people are doing.

    For context, I’m a trans man. I used to be seen as a quiet woman, and even though people make plenty of space for me as a man, old habits die hard, and my voice still reads “female” when I’m not focusing on it.

    In other contexts, I’ve had informal partnerships with louder people to help me cut into conversations. I’d start talking, get spoken over, and my buddy would go “after this, I think Web Crawler was trying to say something”. Or they’d know something was my specialty and say “Web Crawler, weren’t you saying something about this?”. Sometimes these happened organically, but sometimes I’d tell a friend that I was having trouble in group conversations and ask if they could help.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Ah so transitioning itself didn’t actually help you much in terms of getting heard? (not that I’m suggesting that’s why you transitioned of course, but I have heard others saying that they found people paid more attention once they started presenting as male)

  25. RandomLawyer*

    What struck me about your description is only speaking up when you feel a deep conviction about what you have to say. That might be the wrong approach. There’s a lot of professions, and advertising seems like one, where “throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks” is a common approach to problem solving (We do that in litigation a lot). Maybe a better approach to participation is to ratchet down your internal standards and be a little more willing to let half-formed ideas and thoughts out to play. It could be one of your colleagues has another idea that could compliment and develop it, or has an experience or anecdote that could help the idea become reality (or could kill it! who knows!). The point is give yourself freedom to speak more often by giving yourself permission to present partial thoughts.

    1. Forrest*

      Yes, I’m also in a “throw lots of ideas and see what sticks” kind of profession, and whilst I get that that’s an environment that favours extraverts, as an introvert you probably do need to think about how to make it work for you and how you can work for it. As RandomLawyer says, that might mean lowering your standards for “this is an idea worth expressing”. It can also mean being the person who takes notes and tries to track what other people are saying, or who synthesises and picks up two or three good ideas and moves the conversation on, or who turns some of that rubbish into actions and gets commitments from people. Those are all good ways to make a very meaningful contribution to that kind of dynamic without having to change your entire style, and a lot of the “think-out-louders” will often be very grateful for it!

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Sometimes I find my brain is stuck on a bad idea, and so I voice it simply as a “I know this is not a good idea but I just want to throw it out anyway”. (And sometimes someone else will think it’s great, and find a way to circumvent the negatives in it)

  26. Jcarnall*

    I concur that a public speaking coach to help you project your voice in meetings (and to learn how to talk over interruptions, when a peer or a subordinate interrupts you) is a good plan.

    But speaking as a woman who has always tended to be quiet in meetings, I think the best technique for being remembered as having made a contribution, is not only to get there early, but to speak early. This is difficult, but I find it helps to try to think of SOMETHING to say, after the meeting begins, fairly early on. Ask a question. Make a comment. Be brief, if it’s not your turn to speak, but say something to break the ice. Let yourself get used to hearing the sound of your own voice, and make sure the rest of the meeting his aware you are there.

    1. tinyfeetz*

      Yes! This is my favorite tip as well. Say something early in the meeting (once the meeting has officially started and you’re past the small talk that others have mentioned, which is also good to participate in). It does not have to be the deepest thing ever. Just say something – amplification and adding on and all the other tips here are great. I also like saying “Person Who Just Spoke, you mentioned X, could you say more about that?” or “help me understand X?” which works for practically anything you want to know more about. This breaks the ice in your own brain and establishes you to the others as a Person Who Talks In Meetings. It’s easier to talk in any meeting after you’ve talked once already!

      I’m also a petite, soft spoken woman and one thing that has surprisingly helped me is the video conference stuff that we are all doing during the pandemic. We are all the same height on Zoom! So don’t let it psych you out that you are petite and soft spoken – they don’t even know you’re petite.

      So much great advice on this thread – which I’ll be taking as well – thanks to you all!

  27. Duckles*

    Having to record some lectures made me realize the same as you— that what sounds SO LOUD in my head actually sounds great to others. Just consciously trying to be “louder than I think I should be” helps.

    Also, it’s insane but I did have a lesson with a speaking coach and realized that I rarely take full breaths because women’s clothes are so waist-cinching. Realizing I had to re-learn how to speak was eye-opening.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Reminds me of the time I had to present to a room full of people when I was 6 months pregnant with twins – I sounded nervous to my own ear in a way that didn’t match how I felt about the presentation, and I realized that it was because my lung capacity wasn’t quite up to that kind of projected voice over a 10-15 minute presentation compared to when I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t nervous, I was out of breath.

      1. Forrest*

        gosh yes! I had that a couple of times in later pregnancy– I just couldn’t work out why I found speaking so *exhausting* until I realised I didn’t really have a diaphragm any more!

  28. Anonyymouss*

    One thing that worked for me when I was in that classic configuration of: 1. being the least senior person in the room, 2. one of the very few woman (aside from the admin taking the minutes and the second admin bringing the coffee) and 3. the person with the actual technical skills required to navigate the issue at hand but who people weren’t always inclined to listen to especially when I had to contradict senior people, was to occupy space physically. It comes to me quite naturally so it wasn’t a big artificial show, but I was always careful to not sit in a corner with my hands on my lap nodding along but positions that occupy space and project confidence and attention to the discussion (which I realise now are terribly difficult to describe without sounding ridiculous, and are probably very individual). I think body language is something people rely a lot on to assess if someone is engaged, confident, and should be taken seriously, even if that person is not speaking much during a meeting. I think women tend to be socialised to occupy less space, sit quietly with a “good posture”, etc. which does not serve us much. I’m a small-framed disabled woman with a low voice, and this worked well for me in that context.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      This is something I see happen over and over – I go into meetings that are all women frequently (I am on a team of admins and there are…very very few men) and every time the seats up front or next to the higher-ups are empty. I always sit in those spots whether I am the first or the last in the room, because I am let’s say very Not Retiring.

  29. Exponential Vee*

    Improv classes to help you be more relaxed/ confident, but also to learn how to increased your Status via body language.

  30. Rayray*

    Just want to say, I totally empathize. My whole life people always have to point out that I’m quiet. I speak, but I don’t feel the need to voice my opinion on everything or Keep meetings running twice as long as necessary by talking and commenting on everything. Us quiet people are very misunderstood and also underestimated. I’m dealing with this now as I just moved to a different team and they’re all more extroverted and talkative than my last team.

    I hope you find some good suggestions here.

  31. Pyjamas*

    I think you need a “work” persona and “home” persona. You know how some days you feel meh, then when you get to work you take a deep breath and push all that aside? Well, take a deep breath and imagine you’re stepping on a stage where you’re playing an extrovert. Reach out for the awkward encounters—initiating greetings, deliberately going into the meetings when there are plenty of ppl there. You can add external tools: modify speech patterns, making notes of things to say during meetings, but the main thing is to embrace the role. Then when you get home, you can sigh with relief and refuel for the next day.

    Envision this as a role you take on for work, much as a manager must take on a different role than a team member and interacts differently. You’ll probably find that you can “introvert” for various tasks and “extrovert” during meetings, etc. These are just social muscles you aren’t accustomed to using.

  32. Van Wilder*

    Can’t solve everything but some tricks that I have adopted: get rid of the “?” at the end of sentences that some young women do, if that’s a habit of yours. Remove “I think” and “I just” from your emails.

    1. Hannahnannah*

      Absolutely! I’ve been consciously working on removing “just” from my communications… “I’m just following up with you on XYZ” is now “I am following up with you on XYZ”. It’s really empowering!

    2. LKW*

      Totally agree – although I have both young men and women who do this (but yes, more young women).
      The “I think” and “I just” can appropriately soften the tone of the email so I would say use best judgement.

      In your speaking voice, record yourself and see if you use small phrases as pauses like “You know” or “Right” or “Like” or “OK?”. You may not use them at all, but if you do, then I recommend working on reducing these as much as possible.

    3. Casual Linguist*

      About the “?” at the end of sentences, rising tones in speech are very useful for young people, and particularly young women, when there are social power differentials at play. While some people do find it annoying when overused, the rising tone at the ends of sentences comes from an effort to add prosody, or tonal arch, to a phrase. Prosodic inflection is an incredibly useful linguistic technique because it draws the listener along with your sentence and keeps their attention better than monotone speech. Sociolinguistic studies have suggested that young women are more likely to use phrase-final prosody because they feel greater pressure to convince their audience to listen to them, while people are significantly more likely to retain what a young woman has said if she uses prosodic phrasing than if the same point is delivered with no prosody. Can prosodic inflection get overused to the point of being too noticeable? Yes, but as an anxious and soft-spoken young woman myself, I’ve noticed how hyperawareness about avoiding prosodic inflection can actually make me feel less secure in a space, not more. I’d never received feedback from mentors about rising tones at the end of my sentences specifically, but I had heard that I speak in “sing-song.” I personally found it less helpful to focus on fixing my tone in speaking, and more helpful to consider the mindsets and attitudes that go into creating a reliance on prosody.

      1. Van Wilder*

        Interesting. I have found that I feel more confident when I deliver a point with a strong emphasis and “period” at the end, rather than a “?” but maybe I was treating the symptom instead of the cause.

    4. Van Wilder*

      And I apologize for the casual sexism of this comment. I’ve had to make the mental switch from policing my own language/body language to realizing that maybe we shouldn’t police women’s language/body language and instead create a space for everyone to be themselves in the working world. But I’m still a work in progress.

  33. Myrin*

    Coming from the other side as someone who always comes across as confident even if she feels shaky and like her head is a jumbled mess, I’ve learned over the years what the things are apparently which make me come across that way:

    1. I have a really loud voice, just, by nature. Most of my family is like that although (probably because of some slight auditory issues) I’ve apparently inherited my great-grandfather’s outstanding organ. I don’t know if that’s something one can work on; I’d imagine that the same way I can really only be quieter if I REALLY concentrate on it and focus all of my thoughts on it the opposite would be true, too, but maybe someone teaching speech would feel differently.

    2. I keep my head high. It’s not necessarily about looking people in the eye – which I don’t do a lot because it weirdly makes me unfocused – but about looking at their face and not lowering your head.

    3. I gesture a lot. Again, it’s not a conscious decision but just something I do and have always done but I’ve been told by many people that that’s the primary reason why I come across as forceful and confident – my body helps speaking for me or something? I can imagine that something like that could be trained and honed with time and effort.

    1. LKW*

      As someone who also comes across as very confident even if I’m wrong (and if I’m wrong, I totally acknowledge, thank the person for the better information and move on) I’ve found these to be true but also

      1. My tone is never questioning. I make statements. When I’m asking a question, it’s really obvious – I often say “Let me ask you this….” or “Can I ask what may be a stupid or basic question?” or “The question on the table is…”
      2. I have a tendency to repeat myself. I make the point, explain my point then reiterate my point. I’m sure it’s annoying but it means that people who aren’t paying attention may get at least hear something

  34. The teapots are on fire*

    It may be that you’re saying enough but people aren’t noticing. It may be worth practicing a few stock phrases before you speak so people NOTICE:

    “I’d like to add something:”
    “There’s a point I’d like us to consider.”
    “I want to raise a concern about ***”.
    “What if we look at this another way?”

    These aren’t aggressive phrases but there are also no weasel words discounting what you’re about to say.

    When appropriate, say the name of the person who was just speaking. THAT person, at least, will remember you said something and will listen to what you’re saying.

    1. SummerBee*

      Very much endorse this. Also, I learned to start with “I disagree”, when I did, which really gets people’s attention and gets you the space to explain why.

    2. LKW*

      All good phrasing and all good ways to contribute – and even if you agree with 100% – you can put your support behind an idea. And you can add to it to push someone else from 90 % to 95%.

  35. LadyByTheLake*

    I wonder whether the “be bolder” and “show more conviction” comments are coming from too much softening language. Things like “I don’t know, but . . .” or “I might be wrong but, . . .” or “I’m sorry . . .” or “Help me . . .” or other self-deprecating or apologetic language that is too much. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes softening language is needed, but if you are using it routinely (especially if accompanied by tone or body language that isn’t confident) that can really harm your message. I once had a direct report who did this and I gave it as a goal that she could never preface anything she said with “I’m sorry” or “Help” because she said it Every Single Time and in a way that it was diluting her message and causing others to question her ability. Ask a trusted friend or colleague whether you use a lot of language like that and ask for assistance in flagging it if they say yes.

    1. oranges*

      Yes, this. I spent so much time in my 20s writing and talking like this. (When men and people higher than me NEVER did.)
      Start with your emails. They’re the easiest to review and you don’t have to watch someone respond in real time. Once you’ve gotten comfortable cutting it out there, move onto talking. Good luck!

    2. Chickaletta*

      This is excellent advice, I still to this day go back to edit emails and take out the self-deprecating phrases which I tend to add naturally to soften the edges. But I know that they’re not doing any favors for my image.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, this! It may not be how much you’re speaking or even how loud your voice is, but that you’re coming across as timid or uncertain. I have a colleague who sometimes comes across this way – like she feels like she’s bothering people if she speaks up, or like maybe her ideas aren’t very good or important. There’s body language I can’t quite describe but that comes across even in video calls that makes her seem hesitant.

      It can be tone, body language, the softening language that LandByTheLake lists – if you sound like you don’t really have confidence in the importance/relevance of what you’re saying and your role in contributing it to the discussion, others won’t see it, either.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        To add: this colleague is smart and her contributions are great! But not everyone can see through the timidity to focus on the content.

    4. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

      YES. THIS TOO. I had to eliminate all softeners and qualifiers from my vocabulary back when I worked in call centers (what’s hell for an introvert? A call center with angry customers who want answers right now) It is now the work pet peeve that people use so many self deprecating, softening, apologetic, and qualifying statements that undermine their performance at work- it becomes a sort of self fulfilling prophecy, and people expect that level of “I know, I’m not good enough to do this on my own” after a while.

    5. hbc*

      Yes, and I bet it would be really helpful for OP to listen for the times when someone bolder says the same basic thing she was thinking.

      OP, compare what you would have said to those who you agree with. Do they use more superlatives, use big adjectives, inject opinions where technically none are necessary, tell stories that contain backup for their opinion, directly pull in others who they believe are on their side, and/or exaggerate for effect? Try it out for yourself next time. It will probably be hard not to project more confidence with your voice and movement if you’re speaking bolder words too. Just try to look and sound meek while you’re saying, “I would rather kill this project in its entirety than allow it to launch with that font.”

  36. Veryanon*

    If there is a local Toastmasters chapter near you, I’d recommend looking into it. My company actually sponsors a chapter at our location, but there are many chapters out there and I don’t believe it’s terribly expensive. Toastmasters helps to develop public speaking skills in a safe and supportive environment.

  37. oranges*

    If speaking up in a large meeting full of loud, extrovert people isn’t always feasible, focus on being more vocal and assertive in meetings and conversations with smaller groups and one on ones.

    There was an article floating around LinkedIn recently about the value of the quiet person in the meeting. The one who listens thoughtfully and contributes with quality over quantity. A co-worker shared and commented that it was her, and I thought, “she’s right- she DOESN’T talk much in our large team meetings.” But she absolutely talks confidently and effectively whenever we’ve worked on a project together or talked on the phone.

    Spend some time improving your communication with smaller groups, and the next time it gets brought up in a review, you can hopefully say, “Penelope Apples with Client XYZ provided feedback last week that she prefers to work with me directly because I’m able to communicate the campaign goals directly to her. And I’m communicating with you directly right now. Are my actions only being judged in the context of large groups? I view my strengths in listening to all the talking from our more vocal team members and distilling it down to the most important parts. We can’t be a team of all talkers. Someone needs to be the listener.”

  38. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Can you roleplay or simulate these meetings? Knowing *when* to speak up is just as important as diction, tone of voice, volume, etc. Saying the right 10 words at the right time can be more impactful than a constant stream of ephemeral comments.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      Seconding roleplay! If that’s not possible with a friend, you could practice to yourself in a mirror or in your car, talking out loud, at the volume at which you want to come across in the meetings. Get used to your own voice, something I had to teach myself a surprising amount in my 20s. Also, if you have certain points that you want to make during the meeting, familiarize yourself with keywords/phrases that others might say that would present an opportunity for you to speak up and make your points.

  39. getaheadinadvertising*

    I’m in advertising/marketing as well, and tend to naturally be an own-the-room type in meetings. I am neither an introvert nor an extrovert in a gestalt sense, but most people who know me would probably call me extroverted.

    I can absolutely confirm that it is career-limiting in this industry if you struggle to be a memorable part of meetings and a strong voice. I’ve known a few people who have succeeded anyway, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule.

    A couple of pieces of advice, your mileage may vary:

    1. Think of Work Voice as code-switching, not being false. I come from a line of teachers and this is where I get a lot of my natural instincts – how I speak and hold myself in a meeting is very different from casual encounters even at work. That’s a skill, not a talent, and it’s something you can learn.

    2. Practice. Practice at home, record yourself, watch yourself on video, practice with friends & family, try different things out in more friendly or casual meetings. See how they feel and see what the reactions are.

    3. Re-emphasizing “record yourself.” So many people I know hate, hate, hate watching themselves on video. So do I! But once I gave up caring about how I look or sound on video, I was able to perceive much more about how I was interacting with a room.

    4. Think about how to be “strong quiet” rather than “weak quiet.” Certain people in meetings don’t say much, but when they do, all ears aim towards them. Other quiet people in meetings become background. I find that body language, severe self-awareness and room-awareness, attentiveness to room psychology, and active listening contribute heavily to being Strong Quiet.

    5. Know what you want to get out of a meeting. If you go in and your primary considerations are perception (of you, of others, of your work) rather than your objective, you might get too caught up in the interpersonal aspects. For me, sometimes this means giving myself permission to be impatient with a meeting (calibrate wisely: this works with the rabble but not so much with the CEO) when we’re all milling about rather than getting work done. Sometimes it means taking charge of the conversation and ensuring that we come out of it with something useful. Sometimes it means taking the time in the meeting to process what’s being said and doing some active synthesis on the spot OR saying “I need to think about this, let me come back to you.” If you have awareness of those options going in, it will help you make choices about behavior and speech in the moment.

    HtH!

  40. Didi*

    “Gravitas” is a sexist concept that really means “male.” FYI.

    If you are physically small and soft-spoken, you can try to take up more space – stand when you talk and people will listen. Or gesture. Wear bold colors. These are cues in nature that you’re a force to be reckoned with and it works subconsciously on the human lizard brain.

    1. LKW*

      I don’t know if I agree that gravitas = sexist. I think there are a number of women who manage to convey gravitas. RBG was the tiniest of tiny people and was very soft spoken but I don’t think people would say that she lacked gravitas.

      I do think your suggestions are all good.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely I can think of several women with gravitas. RBG was definitely one.

        If you watch the Queen of England making a speech she has amazing gravitas (e.g. her address to the nation at the start of the pandemic) which comes from 9 decades of being the most senior person in any given room. Princess Anne has the same quality and Kate Middleton is developing it rather well. Lady Hale (former president of the UK Supreme Court) is another one with it. Most of the roles Maggie Smith takes involve showing a lot of gravitas.

        I think the best I’ve seen it in someone under 60 is probably Shami Chakrabarti (former director of Liberty and shadow Attorney General). I saw her speaking a at a conference and was blown away by the fact she’s tiny but you’d never think that if you saw her in action. I don’t always agree with what she says but she has all the gravitas to carry it off.

  41. Courtney*

    I don’t talk a lot and I’m introverted. I say something if I have something to say, but I don’t yap it up during meetings.
    You don’t need to either. I find, what works best for me is cultivating an air of expertise and gravitas so that when you do speak, people listen. That’s easier for me than forcing myself to chat, which feels unnatural.

    I’d advise having a trusted friend with a lot of emotional intelligence help you with this. Tell them you want to sound more confident and want people to take your words more seriously. And then maybe role play with them. I’m guessing there are cues you’re giving off that are leading people to call you ‘timid’. Uptalk? Conciliatory language? Self-deprecating language? Women are especially susceptible to these sort of conciliatory cues because we’re taught to care more about other people’s feelings.

    You might also think about what you’re saying at meetings. Are you just agreeing with others? Are you coming up with your own ideas or asking questions that show you’re thinking through issues? Do you feel that you’re on equal level with everyone else in the meeting or are you prone to imposter syndrome?

    But, as an introvert who grew up in a family of extroverts, I feel a strong desire to also say this: extroverts sometimes just don’t get it. Often, they perceive introversion as something that needs to be fixed through coaxing and teasing. You don’t need to be fixed, so don’t feel self-conscious about who you are. In my experience, projecting confidence and self-acceptance leads to much greater acceptance from others.

    1. A quiet person*

      “extroverts sometimes just don’t get it”

      So TRUE! I’m so glad you said that.

    2. Chickaletta*

      “Often, they perceive introversion as something that needs to be fixed through coaxing and teasing. ”

      So agree. We live in a world where introverts are asked to adjust to fit into an extrovert setting, not the other way around.

    3. meyer lemon*

      In the same way that I don’t think introverts should push themselves to be more extroverted, I honestly don’t think women should push themselves to develop more aggressive and less collaborative ways of communicating. There’s always a lot of talk about how women are “socialized” to be peacemakers, to think of others, to not be too pushy, as if that’s something shameful. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing–it’s a tactic that’s helped women survive by drawing on community support. Personally, I’d rather live in a world where men had to adapt to that way of communicating.

  42. A quiet person*

    As an introvert to a fellow introvert, you’ll never escape the “too quiet” comment. You just have to own it and tell them you’re introverted. And you can even throw in that introversion doesn’t mean you’re anti-social, so they can come to you if they have any questions. I like to say I like people, but people wear me out, which means I don’t stay long at social gatherings. (Back when we had them in the office. Lol) It’s a hard balance to master!

    Be direct. Keep your tone friendly. Follow up with people after meetings if you have questions, or ask for that during meetings. Spend time thinking of questions you want to bring to meetings beforehand. If you don’t have talking points, I’d come right out and say that.

  43. Sami*

    A few ideas: Look into Toastmasters. A local theatre group. A nearby community college with drama classes. Even a church where you can do some readings and/or participate in the choir.
    Good luck!

  44. Hoping for Wonder*

    A thing that helped me a lot was taking an improv class (I did one at Upright Citizen’s Brigade.) It forces you to come up with stuff to say and to be the center of attention, and even more importantly, it teaches you to have conviction and not worry that what you’re saying is stupid or that people will judge you for it even if it doesn’t fully land. I hated every minute of the class — but it really made a massive difference in my work performance.

  45. Pennypack*

    I experienced this for years.

    To address it, I bought a work book for actors learning to project their voices and practiced the exercises on my morning commute for more than a year. (Now that a vocal coach is a website away, that would be an even better approach.) It made a huge difference to how I was perceived once I sounded “confident” to my listeners and once they were no longer straining to hear me.

    I also changed jobs early on during this process, and handled that situation by addressing it head on. I told my new manager that I was sometimes perceived as shy, but that I was not shy, merely a quiet and attentive listener. Months later, she told me that she was glad that I framed it that way early on because it shaped her understanding of how I communicated and that she agreed with my self-assessment. I really think that flagging it for her as we got to know each other helped me to avoid being tagged as shy yet again.

  46. Former Retail Lifer*

    No advice here, but as a fellow introvert I HATE how confidence is always mistaken for competence.

  47. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’m going to focus on the fact that you say you sound much different to others than you do in your head. Do you have a trusted co-worker whom you could ask to listen to you when you speak up in meetings or just listen to how you sound in 1:1 conversations at work, and ask them if they can point to anything in particular that strikes them as showing a lack of confidence or conviction? Might you be framing things as questions instead of statements? (E.g., “I’m not sure, but could that cause a problem of X?” instead of “I’m concerned that this could cause a problem of X, because Y.”) Or are you using language that is “wishy-washy?” (E.g., “Maybe we could try X,” instead of “I recommend we do X.”) Also ask them to observe your body language. Having specific things to work on might help. You don’t necessarily have to be LOUD and extroverted to come across as confident and self-assured in your interactions with people, if you frame things in a way that projects those qualities and are able to project them in how you carry yourself, as well.

    I think that the recommendations for a speaking coach are actually good as well. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to do a workshop with such a professional a while back, and I found it very helpful–and I’m a naturally extroverted person who actually enjoys public speaking!

  48. Jane*

    The book ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office’ by Lois Frankel really helped me when I was in a similar situation. It was a while back, but it helped me identify unconscious behaviours / body language that read as unconfident or timid.

    I also agree with everyone else that having some form of voice coach can be helpful. My ‘confident, projecting’ voice seems horribly loud and harsh in my head but doesn’t come across like that, and I didn’t really believe it until I was on a presentations course with an actor where they videoed everyone and had you watch it back. It’s second nature to me now to speak like that in meetings or presentations but it felt very unnatural to start with.

  49. Trisha*

    Become a cheerleader for others – it will help people’s perceptions of you as being vocal if when you’re vocal – what they are hearing is, “You’re Great!”.

    i.e.
    “Susan, that was a great idea. How did you get buy in?”
    “That was a really dynamic presentation.”
    “Your creativity is inspiring.”

    You don’t have to say something profound. If you find yourself doing something like nodding your head in agreement, switch to saying out loud “I support that.” or “Absolutely!”

    Start with being vocal for others.

  50. Whose Line is it Anyway?!*

    I tried two things that helped me with this issue! Toastmasters and improv comedy. Toastmasters was good for practicing how to give a good speech with a flowing storyline. Improv has just… immensely changed my life in every way possible. I’m a MUCH better communicator now and SO much more outspoken than I used to be. It’s seriously a 180 transformation. So, so highly recommend. (And no, you don’t have to “be funny”– the people who are best at improv that I know are just really good listeners).

  51. Quiet One*

    I am also a quiet introvert. I’ve tried a combination of approaches.:

    1. Instead of speaking forcefully, speak with confidence. Confidence came more naturally to me.
    2. Focus on speaking one-on-one with those who matter. Group convos were more challenging for me.
    3. Push back on “you need to speak up”. Sometimes people who are uncomfortable with silence feel the need to change those who are quiet. Definitely don’t let others speak for you–a big pet peeve of mine!
    4. Find moments to go outside your comfort zone. I’m more comfortable in small work meetings than large luncheons.

    With time your confidence will grow. You don’t need to change your personality, just teach those around you that you are competent.
    The most important thing I’ve learned is to be assertive with those who want to change my personality. It doesn’t take more than 1 or 2 friendly assertions to get people to understand that your quietness comes from inner confidence and not timidity.

  52. Fieldpoppy*

    I design facilitate strategic conversations with groups every day, and I’m also a leadership/personal coach. I see this all the time, and I feel for you, LW — especially among young women. I agree with the suggestions about opportunities to practice using your voice, and advice from actual speech coaches, AND I would suggest spending a little time with an actual personal coach who focuses on purpose, your sense of who you are in relation to your work. If you were my client, I’d be exploring with you the things that you DO care about, what you DO want to make sure you get heard on, and building your sense of how to do that in both conceptual and practical terms. For example, you might have a real desire to make sure that the people on your team keep a certain user group in mind — we would practice talking about why that’s important to you, language to use for it, how to stick with trying to get your voice heard when it’s important. We would ALSO work on being confident about the way you ARE — how to build a way of talking to your boss about how you’re okay not being quite as big/loud/etc and being able to call attention to how your style works for X and Y.

  53. Not A Manager*

    Take an improv class. You will learn some tricks about engaging on your feet, and you’ll get some practice (inter)acting outside of your comfort zone.

    I’m also a bit quiet in group settings, and putting on a slightly more social “persona” in those situations has helped me a lot. It’s exhausting, though.

  54. confidenceandallthat*

    Lot’s of great advice on this thread, but I also recommend evaluating how often you use qualifiers or softening language. Do you say things like…

    – Correct me if I’m wrong but…
    -…if that’s okay…
    – This might be a silly idea but…
    – I’m not the expert so take this with a grain of salt…
    -saying um or filler words a ton
    – Raising your voice at the end of a sentence (like ending a sentence as though it’s a question) is also something that people hear as timidity or lack of confidence.

    I find it helpful to listen to a recording of myself once a month or so to ‘check in’ on how I sound.

  55. Lies, damn lies and...*

    Do you make your comments with confidence and conviction? Try recording/really listening to how you speak – are there filler words/phrases that you can drop?
    For example “I recommend broken teapots be recycled into mosaic tiles.” Vs “I recommend broken teapots be recycled into mosaic tiles, if folx also think that’s a good idea?”
    Silence and long pauses are when other people are thinking – it’s ok if you make a statement and people marinate on it before responding.

  56. AlabamaAnonymous*

    Lots of great ideas/recommendations here! I’d also suggest the book “Presence” by Amy Cuddy or at least watching her TedTalk. (The full title of the book is “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”.) Her stuff about body language was really helpful to me, as someone who is naturally hesitant and quiet.

  57. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I had a really, really hard time talking to people when I was younger (school, college, university m first job) because frankly I don’t understand them at all. Sometimes feel like I’m an alien from another planet.

    However, these days I’ll talk to almost anyone. Some things that helped me (may not be suitable for others):

    I wrote and performed stand up comedy for a while. When I could make a room of people near wet themselves laughing I lost the fear of public speaking. (I don’t do this anymore btw. Disability put an end to it)

    I practice conversations in the car when I’m driving (I drive alone) and to my cat (okay, most people won’t stick their bums in your face as a retort, so maybe that’s a bad idea of mine)

    I read up a lot on active listening, basic psychology, stuff that helped me get a better grip of how to interact better.

    And one that is really situational: getting on the right meds for my depression, anxiety etc. made a heckuva difference to my ability to speak up and be more confident. (Note: I’m only saying this about me, not diagnosing anyone else).

  58. mreasy*

    I can’t help but think the majority of this is due to you being a small woman with a soft voice. As a talk woman with a loud voice, who is in fact less aggressive than most males I work with, I have been regularly chastised for just the opposite. A voice coach could help but I hate that there is so often considered only ONE WAY FOR WOMEN TO BE in the workplace.

  59. Goldenrod*

    I just learned an amazing tip from the awesome TV show “Girls5Eva” – create a name for an alter ego and BE THAT PERSON INTERNALLY instead, like Beyonce did with Sasha Fierce!

    (Don’t share this externally, of course!) :D

    My alter ego is named Maxine Miranda. She’s super self-confident and takes no shiz from anyone. ;)

  60. PT*

    My personal experience with this, is that you will get told you’re “Too quiet and timid!” and then as soon as you start speaking up more confidently, you’ll get told you’re “too assertive and aggressive.”

    You’re female and no matter what you do, it will be wrong, and every performance review will include a character attack.

    1. allathian*

      That’s so depressing… I’m female and I’ve never been subjected to a character attack in any performance review, ever. I’d hate to think I’m an exception.

  61. pretzelgirl*

    When I was first out of college I was incredibly shy. I am not sure why, but I ended up taking a job in sales. I worked in an area that served an incredibly diverse population. People from suburbia, people from incredibly rural areas,urban areas. rich people, people without a ton of money and middle class folks. I talked and developed relationships with all of them and ended up being pretty successful. I am not saying you need to change careers, bc obviously you starting something new. But maybe you could start volunteering at a non-profit that interests you. You will meet all types of people there.

    I am so glad I took that job, it has helped me more times than I can think! I am also an introvert who can sometimes be mistaken as an extrovert. So I know how tough it is!

  62. Unkempt Flatware*

    Work with kids when possible. For some reason, they see through any adult-perceived weirdness and you can gain confidence in using your voice and being yourself. Also, take acting classes or improv! Being someone else also help give you voice and confidence in using it.

  63. I'm just here for the cats*

    Some people recommend voice lessons if you are quiet. While I agree this might be good I would be cautious. I(female) have a very young sounding voice. When i worked Customer service at call center I got treated badly. Tried changing my tone, deepening my voice. Then I was told that I was yelling at the customers and being angry. My point is that I would be cautious that changing your tone will so anything, especially if your coworkers already have this precived idea that you are timid. If you start changing your tone they might perceive you to be angry. This can be especially true for women of color (the angry black woman)

  64. CRM*

    1) Others have recommended acting or improve classes, and I totally agree! I attribute my excellent presentation skills to acting classes that I took in middle and high school. You learn how to project your voice while sounding convincing, and how to walk that fine line between following a script and improvising when needed (i.e. due to time constraints, loosing your audience, forgetting a line, ect.).

    2) You mention that your current company is full of extroverts, so there are likely a few people who are exceptionally good at the things that you struggle with. Pay close attention to them and take notes on what they do and say, and when/how they choose speak up. If you have a good relationship with these folks, you might even be able to pick their brain for tips over a quick coffee chat.

    3) Don’t be afraid of asking a stupid question or being wrong! Trust in your expertise and that your opinions are valid. Also, sometimes it’s okay to be wrong! If you point out something that turns out to be wrong, it often leads to a learning opportunity. If you ask a simple or “dumb” question, it might turn out that someone else was wondering the same thing but was also too shy to ask. Also, the more you contribute, the more comfortable you will be at sharing your expertise, and your good contributions will outweigh the times that you were wrong or asked a basic question.

    Good luck!

  65. HereKittyKitty*

    My friend had this problem at work so she joined a Toastmasters group! Now she’s a project manager and leads her own meetings. It really helped her confidence.

  66. RMc*

    I think the feedback you’ve gotten makes you feel like you need to change something about your personality (whether that’s just how you’re reading these annual reviews or if that’s actually what your managers have been saying), and I’d push back on that idea. I think confidence in the way you are and your personality and your voice the way they are will go way farther than trying to train yourself to talk a different way or be a different way. Confidence is a natural energizer, and so is anger. I think the more I’ve realized that the people in power in a given job didn’t necessarily get there by being the best, they got there through old boys’ clubs or just by their demographic, the more confidence it gives me to feel like I have something to bring to the table too. Women, POC, short people, people with high voices or slight voices, people who don’t dominate every conversation just for the sake of talking all deserve to be heard too and if you internalize that idea that will help you feel better about speaking up when you do have something to say.

    1. Oh Snap!*

      No one is saying she should change who she is as a person, she just needs to change her style of communication. You could also call it growth.

  67. meyer lemon*

    Apart from working in advertising, I have a lot in common with this letter writer. Many people have advised me to be more outgoing and project more confidence. Honestly, what’s been most helpful for me is to just learn to be fine with the person I am. There are lots of benefits to being less outspoken, more reserved, quieter, more thoughtful. You can learn to speak with gravitas without raising your voice. You can also get a lot of benefit from being empathetic and a great listener surrounded by people who like to talk. Learn to develop your own strengths rather than trying to fit into a different personality type.

  68. lazuli*

    I worked in Marketing for years, and got similar feedback. Then I went back to school to become a therapist, and all my feedback was about how my quiet, gentle, humble style really helped clients feel heard and not-judged. Can you set up more one-on-one or small-group meetings where your skills might be better highlighted? Even just following up after big meetings with “I had some more thoughts” or “Your comments really made me think about…” might be helpful.

  69. JillianNicola*

    A lot of great points already. I’m also an introvert, and I can be shy when I’m first in a new situation/environment. I’m also ND and masking is my superpower – a lot of what’s being suggested are things I do naturally. Essentially until I find my footing I tend to mimic whatever the energy is in the room. I think acting classes/voice coach is a great suggestion – I wonder if there are any free/low cost alternatives you could explore, although if this is the industry you want to continue in the investment would totally be worth it.
    I would say, when you’re trying to suss out the situation in a meeting or what not, you don’t have to be vocally assertive, but definitely be physically assertive. I like the suggestion of spreading out – also make sure you’re holding yourself in a way that shows you’re listening and engaged. Back straight, leaned forward, head high, looking people in the eyes as they’re talking (super hard for me but I force myself to do it). Make yourself bigger rather than smaller. That way not saying anything is seen as “she’s taking in the information and processing it” rather than “she’s in over her head” or what have you. When you do have something to say, assert yourself in a way appropriate to the situation – talk from your diaphragm (something a voice coach could help you with, but think band drum major), clearly say “I have a suggestion/idea/etc”, physically insert yourself in a dominant position, like at the head of the room/table, don’t allow yourself to be interrupted or talked over (even if you have to directly call out the interrupter).

  70. C.*

    I could’ve written most of this, to be honest. When I first start a new job, I’m certain that people think of me as quiet and reserved, and I suppose that’s fair. However, even if I’m not the first to speak out during meetings or the loudest in the bunch, I make it a point to get to know and connect with my colleagues on a personal level. It’s true that extroverts are heavily rewarded in most modern workplaces; however, when people feel as though I’m actively listening to them, genuinely care about their wellbeing, and am there to lend a helping hand whenever possible, those qualities become my strengths and help me stand out on the team. Sure, it takes a bit more time, but it’s worth it in the end.

  71. Mynameisnever*

    Have always been told I’m too quiet. It’s not insecurity or shyness, it’s listening and thinking until I have something to contribute. Over thr years, both coworkers, bosses and clients at all levels have come to understand this, and now I have a reputation for being worth listening to. When I speak, people pay attention because they know it’s well considered, not just talking to be heard. My judgment is trusted and my questions are worth asking, even if they sometimes feel silly. My work has taught people this, so I worry less about what they think of my personality now. Introverted me will never love small talk or banter, but I have gotten better at faking it.

  72. ecnaseener*

    OP, I’m curious whether or not you think of yourself as shy / afraid to speak up, or if you’re perfectly happy speaking up and just need to sound louder / more confident. Your letter kinda implies the second, but a lot of this advice is assuming the first.

    1. Quiet LW*

      It’s context-dependent – there are definitely meetings (usually ones with a lot of people, most or all of them more senior than I am) where I feel nervous about speaking but also plenty where I feel comfortable speaking but still seem to come across as timid. All the advice is really helpful!

  73. PeanutButter*

    It’s practice – that means you’ll need to put yourself in situations where you can practice your “big” persona. For me, it was getting a job as a paramedic. Suddenly I was constantly in situations where I had to be able to take control of chaos and stand up to people who were used to getting their own way (for example, telling police that no, we would not be just giving “medical clearance” for jail we’d be taking the person to the hospital because they needed medical attention.)

    Hiring a speech coach, joining a speech/debate club, or some other activity might help. Maybe even taking up a leadership role in a club/activity you already do?

  74. Yellow peril*

    As an AAPI woman who is not at all quiet and who is one of the more vocal people in terms of advocacy, but who has also received this type of feedback many times (especially from senior people who seem to have trouble telling us apart), it seems like sometimes the solution may just be to become whiter and male-r. /s

    Sometimes it’s not about us, and it’s actually racism and/or sexism.

  75. Frideag Dachaigh*

    I’ve found I’m someone that, especially when presented with totally new information or something I’m not as familiar with, I speak up less in meetings, as I need more time to process. This can sometimes make me come across as a little more timid or unsure. What I’ve found helps me, however, is to then put those ideas in text form later. So after a meeting, dropping in a Slack thread “thinking more about the new teapot manufacturing process, it might help if we do x, y and z.” While this doesn’t solve those sort of in the meeting perceptions, I find that I’m often more comfortable and confident when I have my thoughts written out and can read them over before I press send, and let’s people know that I do have thoughts/ideas/knowledge on the subject.

  76. Another Michael*

    Speaking up in a meeting is certainly not the only way to participate and contribute, but since you’re being evaluated based on how you’re showing up it’s worth looking into. Lots of good advice in the comments!

    In a previous career a facilitated leadership workshops. One of the tools I would use to encourage less talkative participants was the rule of three: essentially a challenge to speak up three times over the course of class/workshop/etc. Certainly gauge the number to your role, but three contributions in, say, a team meeting isn’t too outrageous. The rule also works for participants that dominated the conversation, by the way – let three people speak before you share something else!

  77. Maisie*

    I could have written this a few years ago, I work in marketing and have been told I’m quiet and shy. Thankfully this has helped with working from home the past year because I think a lot of it has to do with how much you talk and socialize at work. I think this will get better with time, the past few years it’s been easier for me to speak up in meetings because I have a certain level of authority and knowledge. A lot of it comes with practice. I also wonder if the rest of your team are talkers, and your coworkers think lots of talking = bright and knowledgable.

  78. triplehiccup*

    Re: the need to contribute more – you mention that you speak up when you have a firm opinion. What about when you have a question or concern? Or you see a connection with another project, or a strategic opportunity? Or whatever makes sense in your field.

    You don’t mention being nervous, but if that’s part of it, I recommend developing a philosophical distance from work. Paradoxically, the less I care about work on a personal level, the more I’m able to focus on getting it done and speak my mind as needed, and the more I’m appreciated or whatever at work.

  79. Llellayena*

    As a petite woman who is an introvert but is NOT shy about speaking up in meetings: Lean forward, perch on the front edge of the chair (helps you look taller AND more engaged when sitting), keep your hands in view (at least one of them) and pitch your voice just a shade lower than standard speaking. The lower pitch will help the voice project and will help people concentrate on what you’re saying. It’s an unfortunate reality that it’s harder to hear higher pitched voices, it’s really just how the ear works. The high range is also where the hearing is likely to fail as we get older, so all those older men in the meetings may legitimately have a difficult time hearing you. I do recommend acting classes, those will help with voice projection and posture and will make the changes instinctive.

    1. nonegiven*

      My husband has a complaint about one of the weather people on the local station. He calls her ‘squeaky,’ he can’t make out most of what she says. Turning up the TV doesn’t help. He can hear a couple of other female weather people we have had just fine.

  80. I had a bad year, but didn't everyone?*

    I wish instead of extroverts telling us to put ourselves out there all the time, we could tell them that they need to shut the erf up! But I will add on to the suggestion that you reach out to a voice/acting coach. They’ll help you find your sweet spot.

  81. Violette*

    In Prior Job, I worked with a woman who was so quiet and soft-spoken that I had to ask her, over and over in a single conversation, to please speak up. And we were standing or sitting only 3-4 feet apart. If I’d leaned in any closer, we would have been physically touching.

    She rarely made eye contact and she was several inches shorter than I am, so I even had trouble trying to read her lips to figure out what she was saying.

    It was so hard to talk to her that I just gave up and quit trying. If I had a question for her, I’d email or IM it, even though she only sat two desks away from me.

    I have a co-worker in my department who also whisper-speaks. I was so glad when we started WFH last year because at least then I could blame technology when I told her I couldn’t hear her and she needed to speak up.

    I commend the OP for taking the feedback seriously and for writing in. The suggestions for a voice coach are excellent. You can also join Toastmasters, where you’ll be “forced” to get up in front of a group of people and speak on a regular basis.

  82. Sparkles McFadden*

    I really like this question because I made me think about how I interacted at work and how I developed a work persona over the years.

    I, too, am an introvert, and I was always a small woman in male dominated fields. I remember being in my workspace and being greeted by people from other departments who needed something saying “No one is in yet? When does everyone get in?” and refusing to tell me what they wanted because “I’ll wait for the guys to get in.” I knew I had to find a way to become visible to other people. Some of this is in other posts, so forgive the repetition:

    – As you yourself said, wearing clothes that make you feel confident helps. I worked with people who wore jeans and sneakers and I always wore suits or a blazer at the very least. I always looked young, and dressing more professionally helped.

    – Work on vocal projection. While naturally soft spoken, I learned to speak a little lower, deeper and more forcefully so others, who were used to hearing voices in a lower register, would hear me.

    – Take up more physical space. This seems weird, but most women are used to trying to be unobtrusive. Physical presence counts for a lot more than people realize. Before any meeting, I’d do some deep breathing and remind myself to sit tall and spread things out on the table a bit to be more of a presence. After awhile, I could do this without any props, and my (male) staff members would often comment “I forget how small you are because you seem larger than me in a lot of ways” which I took as a compliment. Standing in a “Superman pose” for a couple of minutes actually makes you feel more confident and reminds your body that it’s OK to take up more space. Deeper breathing also helps with vocal confidence and projection.

    – Focus on the speaker and engage non-verbally. Many people hate running meetings and look for a friendly face who is paying close attention. The speaker will be drawn to looking to you for a reaction.

    – I always had notepad and would take copious notes. Sometimes, I’d say “OK, just to recap” and review the list of salient points and action items. This was mostly because I found that most meetings would go off the rails and people would not realize who was responsible for what, but this also let other people see me as being engaged with everyone. This will depend on the dynamics and the situations.

    – If you find that people are speaking over you, it’s OK to say (in a polite yet forceful tone) “I was not done speaking as I have one more point to make.” This is hard to do. When I was in a very loud department, I would literally raise my hand and say “When you are all ready to take a breath, let me know as I have something to say.”

    – Be kind to yourself and don’t force yourself to try to be an extrovert. There’s a lot of value in being the person who sits back and absorbs and speaks up when necessary. There’s a world of difference between speaking up because you have something to say and speaking up because it seems expected.

    I think you are off to a good start, and it gets easier as you go along. Often, you will find people who appreciate the quiet thinker. Good luck!

  83. The Shy Introvert*

    So I could have written this early in my career. I haver never liked being the center of attention. I am uncomfortable around people I do not know well. And I am also a very private person.

    Maybe my tactics will be helpful for you. I developed these tactics when I had a job working with sales people. Very extraverted sales people. I basically treated being a fake extravert as a task. Part of my job. When I would go into a meeting I tell myself I will speak up 3 times – once I do that, I allow myself (i.e., reward myself) to be quiet. When I would have to socialize at a work event I go in with a detailed strategy. For example:
    – walk up to 2 different groups and strike up a conversation
    – circle the room and get a drink (quiet time as a reward)
    – sit down at a dinner table with strangers and start a conversation with at least one person
    – circle the room again (quiet time as reward)
    – repeat

    Once I did all of my “tasks” I would reward myself by allowing myself to leave the event. At first it was very hard. Over the years, it has become much easier and less painful. Now I’m in a senior level role and have to be seen and heard regularly. I treat this like any other aspect of my job that I may not be fond of, like managing the budget. It is a task that I must do to do my job well.

  84. AzaleaBertrand*

    One that you want to use judiciously but can be really effective for taking up space/making your presence known… You mention you always get to meetings early to make conversation, why not try on occasion showing up a minute or two late and making an entrance. Not with clients or when you’re on a serious deadline, but sometimes when you’re quiet or soft-spoken you tend to fade into the background if you don’t match pace with the loud folk who probably arrived much later than you then dominated the convo from the moment they arrived. Joining after they do can be a reminder that you’re there! And not quietly sliding into the back, but a cheerful “hi team, sorry to interrupt, so excited to hear more about the TPS reports” then using all the other tips here about asking the first question or synthesising other people’s comments.

    The other one I use a lot is offering to chair meetings. I’ve done this even when I’m the most junior person in the room and I’ve built a strong skillset around being able to move conversation on when it’s no longer productive and keeping meetings to time/a strict agenda. This can make it seem like you’re more dominant than you are naturally without needing to contribute when you don’t have a strongly held opinion, and your natural inclination towards listening can be a golden skill in terms of making others feel seen/heard (you probably notice the other people in the room who aren’t talking too!)

  85. Secretary*

    A lot of great suggestions here!
    OP, I’d like to challenge you to take some time off from thinking people as either “extraverts” or “introverts”. A lot of so called “extraverts” are just introverts who have really practiced and worked hard at their people skills (I’m one of them!).
    Being good with people comes with practice and it’s a skill you can develop. You can be quiet and stil speak your mind and be engaging with others. I would take some of the suggestions above but just warn you not to let you impression of yourself as an “introvert” stop you from developing those skills!

  86. SeluciaMD*

    OP, is there any way you’d feel comfortable going to those managers (current or former) and asking for concrete examples? There are so many great ideas here but they may not get at YOUR barrier here and I’d hate to see you just throw a bunch of stuff at the proverbial wall and not feel like you’re making any progress. Maybe it’s tone or volume, sure. But maybe it’s the body language piece. Maybe it’s the way you couch your language. Maybe it’s where you do speak up (places it’s less important) vs. when you don’t (and it’s more important). You might also ask a colleague you think does those things well and ask them for feedback after a meeting or two and see if they have any observations or suggestions that might help you get some clarity.

    I’m a gregarious, enthusiastic extrovert by nature who likes all of the words (LOL) and so I’ve had to work on the opposite issue – I’ve had to learn to not jump in first, to step back and take a breath, to moderate my volume and intensity, and create room for others to have input. I heard “loud” as a common descriptor earlier in my career and I thought that it was literally the volume of my voice. While that was part of it, it took a manager I worked with years ago to get more specific: yes, controlling my volume would help, but I also should think about doing x, y, and z in meetings as well. And it was more important to do x in meetings with higher-ups but more important to do y in meetings with peers. That kind of really specific feedback helped me figure out how to play to my strengths but also manage my behavior/presentation/tone in a way that helped me rather than hurt in various situations.

    Becoming a trainer and doing more public speaking also helped with this because it gave me a whole set of new skills in how to listen, engage, and interact with very different groups of people. So that might be one way you could increase the tools in your toolbox and learn some techniques that could be really helpful in demonstrating your engagement and mastery/competence in other settings.

    Good luck!!!

  87. Lofd*

    I have really bad anxiety issues that can sometimes be a really issue at work. What I’ve started doing is pretending that I’m an actor playing a character that is a slightly different version of myself-one that isn’t weighed down anxiety and projects confidence. So in your case, you would be playing a version of yourself where you are more outgoing and outspoken. You can even do some research, by watching shows with people like this, or watching others in the meetings do it. It sounds weird but it’s helped me out in some difficult situations. I’ve found that in a lot of work situations it’s more about presenting yourself in a particular way, not being a particular way.

  88. Rich*

    I work in sales, a very extrovert and outspoken-dominant field. By nature I’m… not. But I’ve become _very_ good at “playing it on TV”, and I’ve helped coach others in similar situations.

    One of the things you said stood out: “I speak up when I have something to say and feel conviction for my opinions”. That, to be completely frank, is a limitation. Spend a few days watching your more effective-at-outgoing colleagues. I think you’ll find they have a different threshold for when they speak up. Conviction is important (I’ll get back to that), but in most situations when you’re putting forward an idea (rather than answering a factual question), “pretty sure” is often enough.

    Getting comfortable with “reasonable certainty” is tough, but a willingness to step forward then — and accept that you may not be entirely right — is a big part of overcoming an appearance of timidity.

    The other part is equally important — how you say it. “Feel it in your bones” confidence is everything. When I’m helping colleagues with this, I frame it as “trying to give the impression that everything is from God’s lips to my ears”. It does NOT mean arrogance — it means you believe and why would you say it if you thought it was wrong — No hedging preambles, no diminishing words, no self doubt about it. Put it out there confidently, let it be challenged and handle challenges respectfully.

    This takes practice, practice, and more practice. Pre-pandemic, I did it in the car — all the time. I’d replay conversations in my head, I’d talk to myself in the way the script should have gone. I’ll prepare sample-conversations in advance. If I have a point I want to make, I practice making it – out loud — while driving around. Now I do it sitting on my couch, which feels more ridiculous, but it’s the way it works. Practice your jokes, practice your delivery, practice responding to possible objections. Once you’ve “had” the conversation, “performing” it confidently is WAY easier.

  89. 2 Cents*

    Fellow marketer here and fellow introvert. Also a woman. I’m known for being quiet and thoughtful, but one bit of feedback my best boss gave me was “I know when you’re in a meeting, you won’t get stepped on.” Meaning, if I have to speak up for myself, I will. It’s taken years to get to this point. Part of it was faking it till I felt confident. I practiced (as I framed it for myself) in smaller group meetings, making sure I was giving coherent feedback or grouping next steps together. In some very large meetings, I still don’t speak up, but if pressed, I can. I also once read advice of “Pretend you’re a person who’s good at doing [X],” which, surprisingly, has helped. Also, I befriended some of the louder extroverts, so they do a good job of touting stuff when I need them too.

  90. Vanny Hall*

    Maybe people aren’t taking you seriously because some of them literally can’t hear what you have to say? I have a co-worker who speaks very softly. I’m slightly hard of hearing, and I just can’t hear her. I don’t have trouble hearing anyone else; just her. One can only say “I’m sorry; could you speak up?” so many times, especially when it doesn’t do any good. I think learning techniques for projecting a little more is a great idea.

  91. Mary Dempster*

    I feel like with so many comments this may get lost – but just in case! As someone above said, I don’t consider introvert = shy. I am absolutely an introvert who needs hours upon hours a day of quiet, alone time (rarely getting it, but that’s for another day). But when I need to turn it on, I can turn it on. I would guess my coworkers, bosses, and direct reports would all consider me outgoing. I was painfully (silently) shy until my mid to late 20s.

    The key is …. pretend you’re not you. It’s good to start this on the phone or in email – what if you weren’t you, with all of your hang ups, or worries about what people think of you, but you were say – your own assistant? As an assistant you would deliver the message appropriately and clearly, without debilitating concern on how the message will be received. I was able to transfer the skill after practicing it hiding behind a phone or computer, and now have no difficulty chatting, making requests, stating my opinion, correcting facts, etc., in person.

    tl;dr – fake it til you make it.

  92. Tulip*

    OP, I am in your same industry and I know exactly what you mean when you work in an industry full of extroverts. As I gain more experience, the best teams I’ve worked on or managed have lots of diversity in personalities. From those who just go with their gut and speak their minds, to those who like to ingest the content, analyze and form an opinion. But at the end of the day, having a POV in our industry is of high importance.

    My advice to you is to find ways to show you are actively engaging in meetings or in group settings. This could be asking questions or recapping key points in a meeting (“Let me repeat back what I’m hearing…”). You could also consider writing recaps and sharing with the group afterwards. Is there a recurring meeting that you’d be able to lead or run through an agenda with the group? That would help build confidence and help others see you as a point person.

    I’d also suggest nabbing coworkers in a small group or 1:1 setting, or even chat them later to discuss your thoughts. You definitely have options to speak up that don’t involve changing who you are!

  93. GreenDoor*

    I used to be really shy speaking up in a group. Two things I started doing when I wanted to speak was to either clear my throat (if the room was quieter) or hum for a second or two (if the room was pretty boiserous). Either way what it did was enable me to start vocalizing – without actually speaking. It was a way of tricking my brain into “Ok, I’m already “talking” so now I just seque this hum/ahem into words.” It worked!

  94. Sparkle Smurf*

    I recommend examining the language you are using as well. Avoid uncertain phrasing where possible and use confident, yet polite phrases instead.

    Examples:
    I think > I recommend/I suggest
    Can you please do X > Please do X
    When you have a chance > (give a realistic target date)
    I just wanted to follow up on X > Do you have an update on X

    Additionally, exclude maybe/might/could/try when possible. Sometimes we soften our words too much when trying to be polite or not come off as bossy. When we go too far, we sound like we’re unsure of what we’re saying, lack confidence, and/or lack knowledge/authority.

  95. Rachael M*

    OMG, this exact same situation happened to me when I was in my twenties. I could have written this letter. I used to work in public relations as an introvert and always had this feedback. Some of this could be gendered feedback because the dominant, preferred work culture in the US is still that of white men and men are expected to be loud, opinionated, confident, etc. Some of this could be that your companies have attracted certain types and you don’t fit that. If a company’s culture has no sense of being inclusive of differing types and preferences, it will always attract the same type to which everyone is expected to conform. Some of this could just be your age and experience, and your speaking and presentation will naturally get more confident as you gain more experience.

    Personally, I realized I was in the wrong industry. I hated PR and my coworkers so some of my quietness came from feeling so out of place. When I switched careers into higher education student advising and now IT, I am much happier and never get this sort of feedback. My organization does promote diversity of styles and work preferences so there is less pressure to be a certain way. PR/advertising attracts some folks who are very concerned with image. My question for you is – in your heart, are you certain advertising is right for you? Everyone has given you good advice but if you have to jump through that many hoops and change who you are in order to succeed in your field, consider if advertising is in fact what you want to do. It wasn’t for me and frankly, I couldn’t be happier I left.

  96. EBStarr*

    I’m shy, not an introvert really, and I have this problem too — but luckily I work in industries where it’s very normal to be introverted and there’s at least less of a presumption that talking more = you know more.

    I don’t have much concrete advice for seeming authoritative right away. I often don’t speak in group meetings at all till I’ve been on a team for months. I long ago decided that the psychological stress and anxiety of trying to force myself to be more talkative than was comfortable for me wasn’t worth the small bump in grades or performance reviews. Instead I just focus on what actually are my strengths, do good work, and try to let my performance speak for itself until I’m ready to speak for myself. :)

    So my advice is to make peace with it as much as you can (for one thing, making peace with it will make you more relaxed which will make you seem more confident). It’s good to try some of the tips above to learn new presentation and public speaking skills–but it’s also OK to be who you are. Your skills will eventually show through. Maybe knowing you will teach some of your extroverted colleagues not to jump to conclusions just because someone is quiet!

  97. Heidi*

    I’m an introvert who works in a very extroverted field (hospitality). The best piece of advice I’ve gotten in a long time has been to get rid of weak action verbs. For example, instead of saying, “I think we should do X,” I’ve taken to saying something like, “I’m certain we should do X.” By putting a little more confidence behind those statements, I’ve gotten to speak more in meetings (no one’s talking over me) and I’ve seen more of my ideas come to fruition. Also, get rid of “in my opinion,” as it may make you sound uncertain. For example, “In my opinion, we should do X,” sounds less powerful than, “After looking more into Y, I’m confident we need to do X.” It’s a small change that really, really worked for me.

    Also, I’m curious if LW’s colleagues make a space for her to share? Just speaking from experience, but I went from a worksite/state where no one really cared what I had to say (because I was the youngest and newest to management, which, looking back, was very unfair) to a completely different worksite/state where all of my new colleagues were super excited to hear from me and get a fresh take on things. So, sometimes it’s not always you…

  98. Tara*

    One thing I read is that women (myself included) tend to begin speaking with soft sounds or umma, which makes it harder to cut through group conversations. It’s apparently better to start with a harsh sound like “BU-t don’t you think?” To interrupt. When I heard this, I suddenly heard that (without noticing, probably) it’s what all the men who did get to make recognised points in conversations were doing.

  99. Kate78578*

    From my experience as an introvert, I found that early on in my career like at least for the first five years out of college, I rarely spoke up in meetings and was too shy to and I actually had a similar type of feedback from all of my managers who said they wish I could “talk” more. I found that as I progressed thru my career and gotten more senior, the “shyness” fades away as you become more confident in the type of work you do, and you develop more expertise to provide feedback at meetings or in projects. I think that overtime, you will hopefully find that too. I also found it helpful to take on a leadership role on small projects to give you more confidence in speaking to others, in a group and so on. Good luck!

  100. EmmaX*

    I have found it useful to plan what I will say in advance of the meetings. So as well as reading any required information for the meeting topic, I write down 3 questions or suggestions. Then I go into the meeting fully prepared to contribute.

    Obviously, as the meeting progresses, some questions may be answered , so I cross those out and jot down the answer. And often other points arise so I add new questions. The main point is that I go into the meeting with an intent and a plan to engage.

  101. pixel pusher*

    I’m also an introvert who works in advertising. I’ve found that it helps me to prepare as much as possible for meetings. If I know that we have a new client coming on, I try to research that client and come up with at least a few ideas for what we can do with them, before we have a brainstorming meeting. I’m not sure what your role is, but I’m a graphic designer, and if I know that I need to present work, I try to set aside some time to think of what to say about that work, what questions people might ask me about the work, etc. I find that it’s much easier to speak up when I’m confident about the subject matter. Good luck!

  102. Erin*

    I’m a really fast talker and I’ve been working to slow down, so I wonder if one of my tips are transferrable to this. I slow down when I talk by about half my natural speaking pattern. While *I* feel like I’m speaking at a glacial pace (and I feel a little ridiculous), everyone else hears me as speaking at a regular pace. Similarly, I wonder if you can put oomph behind your voice when you are speaking and try to increase your volume by half. You might feel like you’re being really loud, but others will hear it as a more regular volume. Push the air from your diaphragm when you speak–there are breathing exercises that can help strengthen this muscle (also vocal/singing coaches!)

    Additionally, introverts tend to be internal processors, which can make it hard to jump into meetings with comments/thoughts/ideas. One way to be more vocal in meetings, without sacrificing fully formed or processed thoughts, is to add comments about what’s being said. There’s a rule for people who tend to take up a lot of space in meetings: “three then me”, as in let three people talk before speaking again. Even though yours is the reverse situation, a similar rule could be a helpful marker for you. Could you try to jump in every 3 or 4 (or whatever number feels comfortable) times that people speak, even just to verbalize something that’s more of an internal thought or comment on the conversation? Example “what Hortense said really resonated with me–I agree that we’ve really hit our stride with communications”.

    Last, have you thought about working with a professional coach? A coach would be a great person to give you feedback, real-time advice, and a person to practice with. Best of luck!

  103. El l*

    First thought, others have given similar advice: Don’t try to be someone who you’re not. So don’t even try to be an extrovert. Don’t try to be dominating if that’s not your personality. Don’t try to be Don Draper-cool if that’s not who you are. (I’m an extrovert, but I’m never going to be that) Put another way: Real confidence is being comfortable with what you lack.

    Next thought: In pretty much all of the advice others have given, everything’s been about you delivering statements. Focus instead on asking questions. Force them to have to think. When they have think hard to answer your question, you’ve made them work and have implied much understanding and value. Even stupid questions can sell your expertise if you deliver them the right way (e.g. “Maybe I wasn’t in the room when we discussed x, but it’s not clear to me yet that…”)

    Final thought, as a corollary of the first: Your best strategy for statements is quality over quantity. People are lucky if they remember even 2 things from a meeting – so if you can be 1 of those, you’re on the podium. To that end, I highly recommend the book “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. That really helped me to think about how to be memorable in what I said, and how to shape a message to get maximum impact. Sometimes this requires preparation to make this message, and other times it just requires you to be relaxed and to see the right opportunity. This teaches you what to look for.

  104. Jack Straw*

    Be aware of your word choice. Using non-threatening, filler words like “just” and “only” convey a lack of confidence. You’ll sometimes see them referred to as kneecapping your sentences.

    Example: “I’m just checking in to see if you have XYZ done.” vs. “I’m checking in to see if you have XYZ done.” Same meaning, but different confidence levels.

    Example: “I’m sort of running that event tomorrow.” vs. “I’m running that event tomorrow.” If you’re in charge, you’re not “sort of” anything, you are running the event. Period. Full stop.

    1. Jack Straw*

      Same idea with asking for permission when it’s unnecessary, like in a brainstorming meeting or when you’ve been asked to contribute an idea. Example: “If I could…” or “I’d like to add…” vs. “Here’s what I think…” or “My idea is…”

  105. iRose*

    1. You’ve gotten a lot of suggestions on ways to change your voice, your wording, and your body language. Unless any of these suggestions happen to resonate with you, I’d gently suggest that you ignore all of these, and instead focus exclusively on the content of what you are saying. The reason is that as you speak up more and grow your confidence in the quality of your comments, you will naturally sound clear and confident in a way that is authentic to you. Worrying about all these little things (many with gendered undertones) is likely to hurt your confidence, and distract from focusing on the quality of your input, which is where you should actually place your focus.
    2. A major difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts tend to get ideas while they are engaging actively with other people, so the process of participating in a meeting actually causes us to have things to say. In contrast, introverts often thrive on thinking through ideas independently, which doesn’t always lend itself to a meeting setting. (Note that this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage for introverts – as an extrovert, I tend to shine in meetings, but I really admire my introverted colleagues who are much more productive than I am while we’re all working independently from our homes.) Once people become comfortable talking openly about these different working styles, it’s pretty easy to accommodate by letting introverts say, “I’d like some time to think this over after the meeting,” and then they often come back to the group a couple days later with an extremely thoughtful email or proposal.
    3. So, what do you do as an introvert to have high quality contributions in a meeting itself when you need solo-time to develop your thoughts, particularly if your office isn’t big on meta conversations about this? I’d suggest that the solution to this is to set aside time for thinking about whatever you expect to be discussed before the meeting, which allows you to develop your ideas privately first. This is easier if there are pre-reads, discussion questions, or data that you expect will come up – you might be able to get some of this from a meeting organizer if you ask for it, even if they haven’t shared it in advance.
    4. The actual content of your comments should be driven by whatever objectives the team might reasonably have during the meeting. If the objective is to generate ideas, then use your solo time to brainstorm ideas; if the objective is to work through a problem and suggest solutions, then identify what ideas you might have. If you’ll be looking at data, then try to identify interesting trends, question existing assumptions, or identify a valuable question that the data may answer. Don’t worry about “you-focused” objectives like making yourself seem more credible or talking X times in a meeting; this will happen naturally as you give yourself space and permission to practice being curious and creative in a way that works for you. Hopefully some of this prep work will give you more to say in the meetings, but you can do the same thing reflecting and sharing your thoughts after the meeting.
    5. Don’t worry about doing this all at once! It gets easier with time and practice. When your boss encouraged you to say more, it was likely a vote of confidence that you have high quality ideas to contribute. Good luck!

    -Small woman, raging extrovert.

  106. Raida*

    I’d suggest two things:

    1) Look for something like Toastmasters, or an into into Improv class – they are all specifically about communicating and doing it well. ask an Improv teacher if your class can do some status work, it’s very handy in controlling how others perceive you.

    2) Speak with conviction about something from work, record that, note down what you think you did well, then get someone else to read your notes and listen to the recording – where are you not doing as well as you think you are? Is there any language that is not as effective as you feel it is? Could you have added dry facts to bolster a point?

  107. rm*

    LW, I relate to this so much. Also a small woman who has gotten feedback my whole life about needing to appear more confident. I even used to work in advertising as well!

    Honestly, I think what changed things for me was switching careers. People expect software engineers to be at least a little bit awkward, and they also tend to see us as experts in a field they might not know much about. So even if I speak softly, people listen to what I say.

    I know this probably isn’t very helpful as advice! But I do kind of wish that when I was younger and tying myself into all kinds of knots about not being the right kind of person, that I had realized how much that feedback wasn’t really about me but about the situations I was in. Being young, female, quiet, and in a low-level position are all things that can make people underestimate you. You can try things to influence their perception, but also keep in mind that a lot of this might not be so much about your personality or something you’re doing wrong, but just your current circumstances.

  108. PinaColada*

    There is a lot of great advice here; I don’t think it’s and “either/or” between focusing on content OR delivery. Rather, its a “both/and”—I think improving your confidence in both your content AND delivery will be extremely helpful

    I am very extroverted, but I lived in Seattle where most of my friends were introverts. They thrived on one-on-one interactions rather than group settings. I wonder if it might be helpful for you to arrange a lot of one-on-one lunches and get-to-know-you sessions when you first arrive.

    That way, when you are in a group setting it won’t feel as intimidating to speak up—since it’s not a large group of people you don’t know very well; rather it’s a group composed of folks you have gotten to know and express your expertise to.

  109. Sleeping after sunrise*

    If you have the financial resources – this is something a good coach will help you with.

    Quite simply, when something is the focus of multiple performance reviews, tips and hints like wearing comfortable clothes aren’t going to make enough of a difference. You aren’t saying you’re afraid or uncomfortable contributing and need to get over the nerves. You have an image problem (how others see you) and that’s what you need to address.

    Have you ever watched video of yourself in group meetings? How often do you make contributions? How does that rate compare with others who are viewed favourably? What about the time or language structure of your comments – how do they compare?

    Find a good coach who can work with you on your presentation (how others see you), voice projection, etc. and any others mannerisms that are causing you to be viewed less favourably.

  110. Arch*

    Ugh, I dealt with this early in my career. Now, 12 years in, I have no issues being assertive and confident in meetings. A lot of it was developing the experience to back up my confidence that I knew what I was doing. It also really helped to teach a college course in my field at night after work for a few years, where I WAS the authority and needed to learn to speak confidently to the students.

  111. theletter*

    I’m an introvert with the worst hobby: singing rock music in bands. It tooks a lot for me to go on stage, including all my vocal training.

    I noticed all these things were mentioned in the comments, but many of those things suggested were found for me at one place.

    A small, independant fitness studio with regular bodyweight classes helped me in so many ways – exercise is ultimately its own reward, but it improved my lung capacity and my posture, decreased my nervous/agitated energy, and provided me with a little moral support in the way of friends who gleefully go to brunch in sweaty gym clothes, and trainers who know my name and say things like “try doing 8 push-ups today – I believe in you.”

    I think some woman shy away from weight-lifting/bodyweight because they’re worrried about their arms getting super bulky – but that takes a crazy amount of time/diet management that’s rarely available to people with day jobs. Some gyms are very focused on getting that happy, healthy mind that comes from regular adrenline-fueled endorphine lifts, and those are the gyms that help the most.

  112. Mandy*

    I have had a career of people telling me I need to speak louder – not because they can’t hear me, but because they are concerned that I’m not participating in the same way.

    But I’ve also been successful, largely by playing to my strength of building one to one relationships, demonstrating reliability and high quality work. I got pushed to the leadership quickly and won over the right people.

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t have fared better if I’d been louder, but I also have a good reputation for managing well and that’s partly because I can listen. So I guess you do you and know that you don’t need to respond to every piece of feedback. Good luck.

  113. Striped Badger*

    The thing that stuck out to me is that you say you only speak up when you ‘feel conviction for my opinions’.

    Honestly, I’m the same. But one thing I’ve found is also useful is if you throw out some of the ‘I wonder’ questions that go through your brain. It lets others give their thoughts on the matter and helps with brainstorming, but making it an I wonder question in my head makes it easier for me to bring up things I have less certainty and knowledge about.

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