Meetings serve as an avenue for people to negotiate, tackle critical issues, and/or get themselves updated on the recent goings-on relevant to their work. It can also provide the opportunity for them to share ideas with each other. 

According to Chron, when exercised properly, assertiveness can improve your relationship with your colleagues at work. At the same time, it can also make you less stressed. On the other hand, your career can suffer if you are consistently unable to assert yourself during meetings because other people might think that you are either clueless or indifferent about the topic being talked about. Below are some tips to follow to be more assertive in presenting your ideas during these discussions. 

  • Be prepared. Before you think about what you are going to say in the meeting, you first need to make sure that you know what the discussion will be about in the first place. One strategy is to get the agenda – or the topics that will be discussed during the meeting – so you can prepare accordingly. For instance, you can study relevant materials so that you will be more confident in presenting your ideas during the meeting.  
  • Know your limits. Many of those who have not yet developed their assertiveness may find themselves saying "yes" to any and every request made to them during meetings. Doing this can make you drown in work later on. Ask yourself what your own limits are; that way, you will be able to know what items you can add to your workload and which tasks you can say "no" to. 
  • Practice. One strategy you can use to build your confidence is to practice talking with colleagues outside of meetings. Not only will this help you hone your ability to speak in public,  doing so will also help you familiarise yourself with your workmates, which can help dull down your stage fright.
  • As a side note, it would also be good for you to observe how your other colleagues handle meetings so you can get an idea of how to present your own ideas in these discussions. 
  • Jot down your ideas. You can jot down your ideas on paper first before you voice out your thoughts. This will allow you to make your points as concise as possible, making it easier for your colleagues to pick up the message that you want to deliver. 
  • Be polite at all times. Politeness is one of the marks of professionalism. It is possible to observe this even when disagreeing with someone. In fact, it is all the more important for you to be polite when expressing dissent; showing proper courtesy will increase the likelihood of you being heard versus being confrontational. 

One way for you to do this is to use "I statements," which will allow you to express your thoughts without putting the other person on the defensive. Common examples of "I statements" are as follows:

  • "I think that…"
  • "I feel that…"
  • "I would like to…"
  • "May I ask you…"
  • "I'm sorry for disagreeing, but I…"

Use more assertive verbs. While it is important for you to be polite during meetings, it will also be helpful if you use verbs that are more definite so that you will not seem indecisive to your colleagues. An example of this would be to use "will" instead of "could" and “want” instead of “need”. 

e.g. "I will need some assistance in completing this task" sounds more emphatic as opposed to saying, "I could use some assistance in completing this task."

Be open to criticism. In some instances, meetings may serve as a platform in which you may receive criticism from your colleagues. Instead of being disheartened or offended about this, you should instead take the feedback humbly and positively. Acknowledge your colleague for the comment, and then present some ways that you have thought of to help remedy the issue. For instance, you can say something along the lines of, “Thank you for your feedback. How about if I do this instead?” 

Acknowledge other people in the meeting. Acknowledging the other people in the meeting is also a great way for you to build rapport with your colleagues. This is especially important if you would like to address someone directly during the meeting.

Examples of how to do this are as follows:

  • "Everyone… As you can see…"
  • "As Mark mentioned…"
  • "To support Julia's statement…"