How to overcome the fear of speaking to people more senior than you

relaxed coffee business meeting speaking

As we head deeper into digitalising our world and the ways in which we communicate expand, we’re becoming more reliant on how we present ourselves online than in real life.

This seismic shift is spilling into how we interact at work, how we build relationships with colleagues, managers and clients which ultimately affects our potential for success.

Many people are so entrenched in communicating online and through email that they shy away from making meaningful connections in the material world. They can struggle with real world interactions with colleagues and with people outside of their own immediate team; whilst avoiding simple strategies that can get them noticed by the right people.

When was the last time you felt comfortable knocking on the boss’s door, getting in front of them and making yourself visible? I hear so often at my workshops that it’s becoming scary to take that unedited and unfiltered plunge and do something outside of your comfort zone.

We don’t have access to a filter, edit or delete button in real life. However, behavioural scientific studies show that “people still buy people”, we are still more persuaded by human interaction that anything else.

As a Generation X-er working with Millennials, Post Millennials and the next generation… I want to speak to people face-to-face or on the phone. You should think about your audience and approach them in a way that they are most comfortable to be effective. So, if I was a Generation X leader in your organisation, your manager for example, my learning style and what I’m most influenced by is you coming to actually speak to me rather than email me.

There is great power in tapping into your emotional intelligence. Demonstrating passion and talking about what you do best and the value you add to them, their team or the project… puts you right in the sights and the psyche of the people that can promote and champion you.

My three top strategies for helping you speak confidently to people more senior that you are:

  1. Find a leader in your organisation or your network that you admire and respect
  2. Think about a way that you can add value to them – perhaps it’s offering to share something with your own network, interview them, support them in a project they are passionate about
  3. Find a way to have an unedited conversation with them, for example you could ask if you can buy them a coffee to tell them about yourself and build a real relationship

There’s power in face-to-face human interaction and being able to read signals and adapt to them. Be bold, confident and grateful; stand up straight, breathe deeply, make eye contact and smile. Being able to build value-based relationships will become a powerful skill in your career and in life in general. Those who see the value in this and nurture these skills will be in a better position to influence, make an impact and succeed.

Mairi McHaffieAbout Mairi McHaffie

Mairi is an Impact Expert and CEO of Scene Change Creative Consultants Ltd, providers of bespoke people development and talent initiatives across the sectors. As a trained professional actress and BBC TV presenter, Mairi uses her skills to enable individuals and groups to communicate and present better, build confidence, increase visibility and align personal branding to organisational values.

She is founder of the House of Commons Women into Leadership (WIL) programme and has designed and delivered successful Presentation Skills workshops for their Senior HR Leadership Team. In 2018 she will again take up her role as Storytelling Expert for the Pan European Coca Cola Enterprises WIL Programme.

Mairi has been a judge on the BBC Apprentice Final as part of a team of business experts assessing the market potential of a key product and is a judge for the prestigious Rising Stars Awards for female pipeline talent across industries. She is the mother of two young boys, a School Governor and occasionally dabbles in stand-up comedy.

Mairi will be hosting a WeAreTheCity Careers Club Event: Communicating Confidently – build your Visual, Vocal, Verbal and Mindset. Tuesday 17 April 2018 – 5.45pm – 8.45pm at Lloyds Banking Group, 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN. Click here to book tickets

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