#222: How and When to Speak Up in English

by | Nov 3, 2021 | 5 comments

Do you struggle with knowing when and how to speak up in an English conversation? Especially when no one asks you to share your thoughts?

Here’s what I mean… 

I received this email and it might describe the same frustration you feel: 

Now that I am working full time, I am really experiencing an absolute English work environment. 

One thing that I find difficult is about how to be actively engaged with meetings. When there is a discussion in a meeting, it’s not a big problem for me to follow through the discussion and come up with valuable thoughts. 

But how to and when to express my thoughts during the meeting is a challenge. If I am specifically being asked during the meeting to share my thoughts, I can do it. 

But often, I find I don’t know or I am not quite sure how to start sharing my thoughts without being asked. 

You might also be waiting for the perfect moment to jump into the conversation.

But it never comes. 

So what do you do?

You could politely interrupt. And I have a full lesson on that topic with 11 Useful Phrases.

But in this Confident English lesson, we’re going to focus on how you can fully participate in English conversation without feeling rude for interrupting, without apologizing, and without missing an opportunity to speak.

How and When to Speak Up in English

3 Tips for Knowing How to Speak Up

 

Tip #1 : Listen Carefully For Opportune Moments

Remember, people won’t always ask what you think so sometimes you just have to jump in when there’s an opportunity.

Pauses and natural transitions in the conversation are opportune moments.

A pause is a lull in the discussion. Waiting a few seconds after the end of a sentence will ensure you’ve chosen the right moment to express your thoughts and that the speaker has nothing left to add. 

A natural transition is when the discussion is moving on to a new topic. If you had something to say, interjecting during this transition time is a great time to jump in. In a moment, I’ll share some specific phrases you can use for this but…

Sometimes these opportune moments don’t arrive. Too many people are involved and everyone’s trying to contribute, so perhaps that perfect pause or transition doesn’t happen.

When that’s the case, move on to Tip 2…

 

Tip #2: Use Body Language

Whether you’re participating through an online conferencing platform or in person, raising your hand is a great visual cue. Your colleagues will understand that you have something to add or ask, and the focus of the discussion will naturally turn to hear your thoughts. 

Alternatively, if you’re in an in-person meeting, leaning forward and maintaining eye contact is also an effective signal for wanting to add to a conversation. 

If you’re in an online meeting with a lot of people, try using a video feature like a raised hand or type a note in the chat that you have something to add.

If you’re worried this won’t be enough, try Tip 3.

 

Tip #3: Take Advantage of the Agenda

If your team has access to a meeting agenda, prior to a meeting, take a moment to read it and identify a related point when you could share your ideas. 

To confirm that time will be allotted for this, mention your thoughts to your boss prior to the meeting and inform them of when you would like to discuss it. 

Since you gave your boss or colleagues a heads up, they will remember to pass the baton over to you. 

What to Say When It’s Time to Speak Up

 

Recommendation #1: Pose a Question

Asking for permission or asking a general question that enables you to seize the opportunity to share your thoughts is a great way to politely interject in a discussion. 

To ensure you’ve picked an appropriate moment, be direct and ask for permission. 

The following phrases are particularly helpful in this case:

    • May I add to that thought? 
    • Could I jump in quickly to share my thoughts? 
    • Excuse me, may I share my thoughts on this?

    On the other hand, you may use questions for clarification. To avoid getting lost or missing important details, you can simply ask:

      • Before we move on, could we discuss…?
      • When we have a moment, could we circle back to… for further clarification? 
      • Could we pause for a moment to clarify…? 

    Recommendation #2: Politely Assert Your Thought

    However, if you feel confident that you’ve chosen an appropriate moment, you may assertively contribute your thoughts to the discussion. 

    Once you’ve deemed a moment as appropriate, you may say:

      • I’d like to jump in to mention that…
      • While we’re on the topic of X, I’d also like to discuss Y. 
      • If I could put in my two cents, I think/believe…

    If time is of the essence in a meeting, your colleagues would appreciate your straightforwardness. 

    For example, you could interject during a short pause to say, 

      • I’d like to jump in to point out that we need to define our deadlines prior to beginning the next stage.”

     

    Recommendation #3: Piggyback on Others

    As I mentioned in a previous lesson on how to think out loud in English, you can speak up when you want to piggyback on others’ ideas.

    Piggybacking is a great strategy for politely speaking your mind, showing appreciation for another’s idea, and avoiding a sense of impertinence. 

    When piggybacking, you may find the following phrases helpful:

      • I agree with A and would like to add…
      • Thank you for bringing this up. I’d like to point out that….
      • Before we move on, I’d like to discuss a related idea. 
      • Excuse me, I’d like to add to A’s thoughts.
      • While I agree that…I think…

    Asking for permission or asking a general question that enables you to seize the opportunity to share your thoughts is a great way to politely interject in a discussion. 

    To ensure you’ve picked an appropriate moment, be direct and ask for permission. 

    The following phrases are particularly helpful in this case:

      • May I add to that thought? 
      • Could I jump in quickly to share my thoughts? 
      • Excuse me, may I share my thoughts on this?

      Time to practice.

      I have 2 scenarios for you. Consider each scenario and then tell me how you would respond using the tips and recommended phrases from today’s lesson.

      The best place to share is in the comments below. 

      Scenario #1: Imagine you strongly disagree with a colleague on how to handle a new client. During a meeting, your colleague discusses their proposal at length and there’s hardly a moment to speak up. 

      How would you politely interrupt and express your opinion? How would you identify the correct moment to do so? 

      Scenario #2: You’ve joined a new team and have been working with them for over two months. At this point, you feel comfortable identifying when to speak, but you still feel hesitant about assertively interrupting to state your thoughts. 

      Which strategy would you use in this moment? 

       

      I look forward to hearing your responses!

      Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

      ~ Annemarie

       

      P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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