You’re in a meeting and someone asks for your decision, opinion or status on one of your projects. Suddenly, your mind goes blank. It freezes. You’re not responding ! Might be nerves, anxiety, ADHD or not wanting to be in the spotlight. Doesn’t matter though. You are tired of it and people wonder if you have the answers. And you do, but they pop into your mind after the meeting.
I hear this often from clients and it is something I’ve overcome myself. Years ago in my corporate life, I was told that my silence in certain situations made people think I was not a leader, didn’t have the answers, or was not up to the role. All I was doing was listening, taking in what people were saying and then …. freezing on the spot. Hours later, I’d have the decision made, or figure out a solution.
5 Strategies to Experiment with – Before a Meeting
- Get the topic ahead of time to give you time to consider your opinions and contributions. Think of it as a rehearsal – not that everything can be known ahead of time, but some of it can.
- Consider the perspective of your manager or others in the meeting. What questions might be asked of you? Prepare some rough answers.
- Script it. If you know what the discussion will be about, schedule time and think through your answers. Write down notes so they are with you in the meeting. If you’re more of an “out loud” thinker when you organize your thoughts, record your thoughts on your phone.
- Try the super woman pose, suggested by Amy Cuddy, a pose which literally changes what’s happening in your brain.
- If you need to calm yourself, go into the restroom or a conference room for 5-10 minutes. Take some calming breaths. Close your eyes and focus on the best possible outcome. It’s about work, not about the person you are.
5 Strategies to Experiment with – During a Meeting
- Use a fidget to calm yourself. One client would fidget with the cross around her neck. Take notes, draw a mindmap, doodle or use ways you already know work . This calms you and helps your mind stay engaged in the conversation. I was in a meeting recently and it was a complicated, many faceted discussion. The other person paused at one point and said she wanted to pause the conversation and close her eyes because she needed to create a mental mindmap of all the puzzle pieces.
- Use phrases to slow the conversation pace. Use clarifying questions which help the discussion and also buy you time to think and process. Wording to use: “What I hear you saying is …. Have I got that right?” “Tell me more about this one piece.”
- Start with what you do know to give your mind some time to get into gear as you think things through. Use phrases such as: “What I DO know is …. ” Or “My instincts tell me – without data – that we could ….” “And so then the questions I’d have are ….”
- Take the decision out of the meeting entirely by saying something like this: “I’d like to think more on that one point and come back to you. How about by tomorrow afternoon; will that work?” And then, KEY is to write this reminder on your notebook or calendar, so you do return to that decision, following through on your word.
- If you are a big picture thinker and don’t keep details in mind, or certainly if you have ADHD with its inherent memory and detail challenges, bring in your notes to meetings. Stop trying to remember details if that is not your strength; you have other strengths, to be sure.
I worked with a business client whose manager remembered details quite easily. Even details about the projects my client worked on …. which my client could rarely recall. This began to reflect poorly on her performance, when it was an ADHD memory issue, not something she could change. Together, we created am Excel spreadsheet which kept track of her calls; she’d print that and take it to the meeting so she’d have details at the ready. The sheet gave enough information to get her mind in gear and she’d verbally fill in the story from there. She also showed her manager how organized she was, and gradually explained how and why this approach worked. Plus, the proof was in the results!
Our minds and our brains all work so differently, so look for your strengths and don’t try to measure up to others [or apologize] on the basis of their ways of working. Head towards your strengths and figure out strategies to support what’s not your particular strength.
Good luck at your next meeting! Which strategy will you try?
p.s. If you need practical strategies for this, whether you’re the employee, manager or business owner, that’s what I work on with people, ADHD related or not. It all ties into your personal productivity.