Beware the Wishful Boomerang

By Natalya Williamson

Natalya Williamson, Project Manager on the Leadership and Management Development team at LinkedIn, is also an inaugural member of the Quiet Leadership Institute’s Ambassador Program. Are you curious if your own workplace or business might benefit from learning how embrace neurodiversity, foster a more inclusive environment, and more fully tap into the talents of all employees? Contact us!

Finally, you get the courage to say something in the meeting you’ve been sitting in for about 34 minutes now. You want your ideas to be heard. You find the right moment, you  speak out—and you instantly regret it. Your mind is buzzing. Did that even make sense? Why did I say that? I should’ve thought that through a bit more, right? Now they probably think I’m stupid…should’ve just kept my mouth shut!

Sound familiar?

Now you are sitting there for the 26 remaining minutes having an internal debate with yourself, wishing you could somehow go back in time and, like a boomerang, have your words return right back to you as if you never said anything! In turn, you would peacefully go back to actively listening, taking notes, and following up later as you normally would.

I call this a wishful boomerang: it’s when you speak up and share your thoughts but moments after wish the words that just flew right out of your mouth would retract right back to you. It’d happen so quickly, it’d be as if nothing was ever said! What a relief that would be.

Unfortunately, there are no boomerangs to retract what we say or even a time machine to take you back a couple of seconds.

Going back to that meeting where you spoke up, I promise you that:

  • What you said wasn’t stupid
  • Chances are you did think it through
  • Nobody thinks any less of you

What really happened was:

  • You knew what you were thinking was relevant—that’s why you said it
  • You took a courageous step outside your comfort zone
  • You made sure you had a voice at the table
  • In short, you could’ve just sat there, but you didn’t.

Here’s a strategy that works for me

After I gather the courage and share my thoughts in a meeting, I have a post-meeting habit of asking teammates, “So, how do you think that went?”

When I started checking in, it was to see if colleagues would say they couldn’t believe I said what I said or that my idea should never have been shared out loud. But instead, I commonly heard three reactions: “It went well,” “We’ll have to continue the conversation as a team,” or “Great idea on what you mentioned!”

The more I did these casual pulse checks, the more I realized that nobody was cringing or shocked at anything I said. The heavy feeling in my chest wasn’t necessary.

I heard a piece of advice that has stuck with me and I’ve been working on:

“If there’s something you want to say in a meeting, tally how often it comes to mind. If you have the same thought more than twice, you must say it!”

Try this, my fellow introverts!

Continue to speak up. Continue to try. We all deserve to be heard, no matter what we feel the room hears. You’ve thought this through. No more wishful boomerang thinking. That is my wishful thinking for you.

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