Imagine being at the center of a room full of people, all looking at you.
Waiting for you to say something. To share your opinions. To speak your truth.
How does that make you feel?
Do you feel confident?
If yes, then stop reading. You’re one of the luckier ones and this article is not for you.
But if you imagined yourself squirming, waiting for all the attention to shift somewhere else, hoping to blend back into the crowd – then keep on reading.
Because that was me a few years back.
Attention from others used to make me awkward.
Sharing my thoughts, or giving an opinion in front of a group was out of the question.
Can you relate?
Perhaps, you too have been holding back for as long as you can remember?
Now, I don’t blame you.
You see, most people think they don’t deserve much attention or focus.
They keep the conversation focused on the other person. They ask questions and share less about themselves.
They don’t want to be an egomaniac or attention hog who just talks about themselves.
Being the center of attention often makes them squirm.
They become anxious to shift the spotlight back to others.
Now, this is a huge problem, right?
How can you ever hope to speak your truth, if you don’t believe it’s even worth saying out loud?
How can you ever hope to influence anyone?
So what do you do?
You develop a healthy expectation of attention in a conversation.
Believe that you deserve attention, for others to be present with you, and listen to what you are saying.
What you say is significant. It matters.
Because you matter.
This is the foundation over which you’ll build yourself using the strategies I outline next.
So, are you ready?
Then here’s what you can do to speak your truth, captivate and influence others:
Relax Before you Start
You think more clearly and express yourself better if you’re calm.
Breathe slowly and deeply as you think about what you want to say.
Put a hand on your stomach and breathe slowly, inflating your stomach like a beach ball each time.
This will help you relax and become grounded.
Crash the Party
Now you’re relaxed and ready to go.
And you know you deserve attention, connection, love, and all the rest.
So what are you waiting for?
Usually, for someone to invite you in, give you permission, or tell you it’s OK.
You wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more.
Unfortunately, this passive approach doesn’t work.
You have to crash the party.
Insert yourself into conversations, into groups, into people’s lives.
You might be thinking – that sounds so aggressive and pushy!
What if they don’t want me there?
Well, then you’ll find that out soon enough.
You’ll get a clear signal if your presence, opinion, friendship, or romantic interest is not wanted.
And that’s OK.
You take that amazing feedback. And you move on to where you’re wanted and create amazing connections there.
Remember, “You’re not for everybody.”
Share What’s Interesting to You – Without Being Asked
If someone asks you a question, you usually answer it right away without thinking twice.
But speaking up is not about doing what others might want or expect.
It’s about doing more of what you want.
It’s about connecting, having fun, building trust, and building relationships.
If you’re only pretending to be engaged, then no real relationship will form.
So what do you do?
Don’t wait for someone to broach a topic that you want to talk about.
Do that yourself (remember crashing the party?)
And there are so many ways to steer a conversation towards something that engages you more.
You can share about a book you’re reading, a show you watched, or a hobby you’re into.
The key here is to spontaneously put more of yourself out there. So others know you better, and you feel freer to express yourself.
Even if someone asks you a question, you can minimally answer it and then share about what you find more interesting.
There are no laws around this.
Just remember to have fun.
Turn Down Your Filters
Most people have a story in their mind that says “I don’t know what to say,” or “I don’t have anything good to say.”
It stops them from starting conversations with strangers.
From approaching people they find attractive.
Or from interacting with others in a business and networking setting.
You have an endless amount of things to say.
But your filters are set too high.
You filter out all the things you want to share.
You filter out all the questions you really want to ask.
Then you make sure both of these are polite, normal, and nothing out of the ordinary or unusual.
Then you run those options through another set of filters.
“Will they find this interesting?”
“Is this good enough?”
“Will this offend or upset anyone?”
And guess what?
After all of this, nothing much more than a trickle comes out.
You’ve thrown away the baby with the bathwater.
So what do you do?
Turn down your filter. Not all the way down but dial it down by a significant amount.
You will become much more interesting.
Own Your Position
Use “I” statements. They work.
“I” statements acknowledge that they’re your opinion.
They speak from your own experience, and they tell the truth.
“This is what I think.” “This is what I’ve seen.”
You’re not presenting it as the only truth of the universe.
Presenting it as your view works better than trying to seize control and shame and judge the other person into submission.
“But this is unsatisfying!” I hear you saying.
What would be satisfying? Ranting. Saying, “This is how you have to think!”
But ask yourself – does that ever work?
So you have two choices – either you get to satisfy your impulses.
Or you get to communicate, influence others, and persuade them.
You can’t have both ways.
The choice is yours.
Don’t Signal a Lack of Confidence.
It’s good to keep an open mind.
It’s good to be willing to change your opinions when someone presents new information.
But it’s not okay to signal inferiority or uncertainty about your opinions.
“I’m not too sure, and you can correct me if you feel what I’m saying is wrong…”
Don’t undermine your own opinion out of the fear that others may disagree.
It signals insecurity and isn’t very sexy.
Avoid Appeals to Authority
It’s tempting to appeal to authorities.
Starting the sentence with “Scientists say…” or “The Attorney General Says” lends that additional weight to your opinions.
You would think that people would be less willing to disagree with the authority than they’d be with you.
Plus, you get to absolve yourself.
You’re just reporting what the authority said, right?
“Don’t blame me, that’s what he said.”
But this is dishonest.
If you believe it, say so. Own it.
Later on, you can justify your opinion, but it’s still your opinion.
Acknowledge that first and you have a better chance of influencing others.
Don’t apologize for having an opinion.
You have a right to an opinion, so you don’t have to apologize for it.
Avoid saying things like, “Forgive me for saying this…” or, “I’m really sorry, but I think…”
Is it true that you regret having a point of view?
An apology acknowledges guilt.
If you haven’t committed a crime, don’t do the time.
Turning statements into questions (“I don’t like helicopter parenting?”) suggests that you aren’t sure what you think.
It suggests you need the other person’s confirmation. (“I think I’m helicopter parenting, but am I really?”)
This puts the other person in charge.
It suggests you could easily be persuaded otherwise.
Say it, don’t ask it.
You Aren’t the Source of all Truth
Don’t word your opinion in a way that implies others have no right to disagree.
E.g. – “Any intelligent person thinks this way.”
People have every right to disagree with you.
They can be correct (annoying, I know) or misguided – but that doesn’t matter.
Don’t state your opinion as though there is only one way to see the issue.
Doing so feels like a way to strengthen your position. But it weakens it instead.
If anyone changes their mind it should be for good reasons, not because you push them until they give in.
Don’t raise your voice or tower over the other person. Don’t stare, threaten, or make a personal attack. Don’t use guilt.
Doing these serves no purpose.
Even if you do convince people to back down, they’ll only agree until you leave the room.
People don’t change their minds out of fear or guilt.
Think Before Justifying
Sometimes you feel threatened when others disagree or challenge your opinions.
You become angry. You go to extraordinary lengths to convince the other person.
You feel your worth depends on your ability to defend your position.
It puts you in a powerless position.
Instead, choose not to defend.
You don’t have to convince them in order to keep your opinion.
You can simply acknowledge that you differ – “I can see that you don’t agree.”
And that’s okay.
Don’t let it Slide
You don’t have to give your opinion every time.
But sometimes it’s important to stop standing by.
If something’s happening that’s against your values – voice it out.
“I think it’s fine that he did it that way.”
“I don’t find rape jokes funny”
“I strongly advise against adopting a tiger cub as a pet”
You have a right to express your views – as long as you do it calmly.
Now your arsenal has all the strategies.
These will set you apart as someone who dares to voice their opinions.
They will make you irresistible. They will make you influential.
I hope you use them well.
But are these infallible? Not at all.
There will still be times when you’re speaking to someone and they don’t seem interested.
So what do you do then?
I’ll come to that, but before that – let me tell you what you don’t.
Don’t take it on yourself.
Do not conclude that the topic was stupid, or that you’re boring.
Don’t think that you weren’t good enough to keep their attention.
Don’t believe that you didn’t deserve it.
Even if this is the way you’ve felt forever, it’s time to stop.
Raise your standard.
You do deserve it. What you want to say and share matters.
It is interesting. Own it. Expect more.
So what do you do instead?
Acknowledge that someone isn’t interested in you. Notice that it doesn’t feel good to you.
Remind yourself you deserve better than this.
Maybe you end the conversation and go talk with someone else.
Maybe you decide not to pursue a second date even though he or she was really hot.
There are tons of amazing, attractive, compelling people out there.
Find one that excites you and gives you the attention that you deserve.
It’s an abundant world out there.