Social interaction can make us uneasy. Especially if the stakes are high. For example, compare giving the Starbucks barista your morning coffee order and having a one-on-one evaluation reports meeting with your boss. Can you guess which kind of social interaction will be more social-anxiety inducing? The meeting with your boss, of course.
In today’s lesson I’m sharing 5 strategies to help you communicate confidently with your boss and your higher-ups so that you don’t have to fear these types of interactions.
Let’s get into it.
It’s absolutely a natural response to feel the pre-meeting jitters in your belly and have an overall sense of malaise when your boss calls you into their office. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you need to subject yourself to those feelings.
Why The Intimidation?
Strategy one is to try to understand why you’re intimidated by this person in the first place. Do you feel like they’re more accomplished than you? If so, remember that you still haven’t accomplished all that you’re going to accomplish. And also, what’s your definition of “accomplished?” This could be a “grass is greener on the other side” type of moment so it’s important to recognize that. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and positive qualities as well as competencies to give you that immediate confidence boost.
Lean into Value Add
In the meeting make it a goal of yours to contribute positively to the conversation. The easiest way to think about this is to ask yourself how you can add value. What do you bring to the table? How can you show your worth? The best way to do this is to prepare. It makes a huge different to plan out what you’d like to say so that you cover all your bases. No need to write a script and memorize it verbatim. It would be wise to have an outline with two to three major points that you can back up with data, anecdotes, work experience, and other examples. This will help substantiate your points and validate them. This even works for impromptu meetings provided that you’ve thought through various scenarios prior to that. For instance, knowing that progress reports are around the corner, you might speak to accomplishments from this quarter or you might explain a snafu that occurred and turn it into something positive. Again, anything you share should circle back to how you’re adding value: adding value to the project, to the team, and to the company at large.
Don’t Aim to Impress
We all know when someone’s trying too hard. Human beings are good at innately detecting this. The best thing here is to be as genuine and authentic as you can. Avoid the temptation to bust out advanced vocabulary that you studied for the GRE or complicated sentences. Generally the more someone aims to impress, the less they actually do. Speak as clearly as you can. Use simple terms. Don’t blabber away. Listen more than you speak. Listen actively and be engaged in the conversation. The way you do social interaction will be impressive enough, especially if you’re aware of it. Some people think that they have bragging rights if they’ve achieved certain milestones. The truth is, it’s the humble and modest people who’ve accomplished something huge that is more impressive than those with the loud voices trying to impress others.
Remind yourself that they were in your shoes once. Are you just starting out with your career? They’ve been there before. Are you having a rough day? They’ve had a few of those..maybe even more than a few. Are you in a new role that feels like it’s way over your head? They’ve felt way over their head too! Basically anything you’re going through they’ve gone through too. It’s part of the human experience. It might not look exactly like your experience, but it’ll be similar enough that the situation resonates with them. If you’re feeling up to it you can even open up by speaking firmly from the heart and even ask them for counsel. Of course this will depend on the nature of your relationship, but these kinds of conversation could help facilitate some mentorship.
Fake it till you Become it
Different from fake it till you make it, this is really about acting with confidence, before you even have that confidence. The idea is that the mere act of getting started and assuming this identity will catapult you into The Confidence Zone. That’s important because most of the time, we take on big roles and start new projects before we’re even ready. And you know how the saying goes, if you start when you’re ready you’ve started too late. I like to keep that in mind when I’m doing something new or faced with a new challenge because it’s natural to feel scared or intimidated. But you have to do it anyway, and when you do believe that you can. So the faking it part of this simply means that you begin with the action and the mind will follow suit. The more you do whatever it is that intimates you, the more it’ll become part of your new identity. Assume the behavior of your “boss self” before you’re the boss. Having good posture helps with this just like social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about creating the confidence you want to exude.
Amazing work. So to recap:
- Find out why are you intimidated by them?
- Focus on value add
- Don’t try to impress
- Remember that they were in your shoes once
- Fake it till you believe it
Be sure to practice these strategies and make them your own. Use these communication techniques and tools whenever you’re interfacing with someone who you feel intimidated. You’ll notice that over time you’ll be able to implement these strategies instinctively.
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