Have your say at work without hurt feelings

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE: Besides listening clearly to others at a meeting, you should also pay attention to how you put your views across in terms of tone of voice and body language.


    Aug 16, 2016

    Have your say at work without hurt feelings

    YOU have a point to make but you do not want to interrupt the discussion and appear rude.

    Or, you want to register your views but have trouble finding your voice.

    Likely, you find yourself merely taking notes at meetings or nodding politely.

    The Singapore worker tends to shy away from speaking up, anecdotal evidence suggests.

    It is the other colleagues, likely those from abroad, who jump in and give their points of view - and, articulately, too.

    Here are some ways to be heard and steer the conversation from the few who are monopolising the conversation.


    A good chairman will sweep the room for views. However, if he or she is not managing the meeting well, you may be waiting for a lull in the conversation that never comes.

    If you are an introvert, you may find yourself not speaking for a long while after the discussion has begun.

    When you finally pluck up the courage to say something, the rest are moving on to another topic.

    It is acceptable to say: "Before you move on, there is something that I'd like to add" or "I need to say something here" or "Do you mind if I interrupt?"

    After the chairman acknowledges you, go ahead and say your piece.

    Be prepared to answer any questions others may have about what you just said.

    Sometimes, you find that the meeting has veered off topic. It may be an important discussion, and you need others to focus on the agenda as you need clear decisions that impact the staff's work schedules.

    You do not want to damage relationships so it's best to say something like: "May I interrupt for a second?"

    After the room turns its attention to you, explain: "This is an important meeting so I want to make sure that I understand what's been said so far."

    Briefly, go back to what has been said that relates to the agenda, then ask a follow-up question. This technique refocuses the meeting without damaging any egos.


    Perhaps, you have something to add but you feel uncomfortable interrupting to add your piece.

    A workaround is to distil what has been said, focusing on the section where you would like to add some information.

    You could say: "To check that I have understood the discussion", then launch into your summary of what you have heard.

    Or, phrase it as a question: "Did I understand correctly?"

    Again, add your perspective only after you have been acknowledged.

    Make sure it is more than your two cents' worth.


    You may feel more comfortable using a signal before you interrupt someone during a meeting.

    You could raise your hand, then say: "Excuse me for a second but there's something I'd like to say. I'll keep it brief."

    When you say your piece, ensure that it is on point.


    If you have the agenda, think through the points you wish to make. List the key items - usually, a couple of points or even just one burning point to put across.

    Take notes during the meeting. Jotting down the points of discussion helps you to focus or reframe your thoughts as you summarise the gist of the conversations before you interrupt.

    Knowing the one key point to say - and saying so confidently - gives you a sense of accomplishment.

    When you remain silent in meetings, people perceive you as not having anything worthwhile to say.

    And they may discount you because of that.

    If you want to succeed in the workplace, learn to speak up and contribute meaningfully.

    This article was contributed by

    Right Management, the career development arm of United States-listed HR consulting firm ManpowerGroup.

    Hone your

    speaking skills

    SOME people refrain from vocalising their views because they are not confident about how to communicate.

    Use these tools to sharpen your oral presentation skills.


    Yes, you may have a valid point to make but ensure that you listen well too before you speak. People want to know that they are being heard.

    Train your ear to listen to what others are saying when they are saying it instead of formulating your response as they speak. Clarify the points you are unsure of to avoid misunderstanding.


    Do not talk down to anyone but treat everyone with respect. Also, pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind.

    In your private moments, think through how you put things across. This habit will prevent foot-in-the-mouth situations. Also, when you have to deliver a particularly harsh point, do it gently.


    This is important for meetings and video calls.

    Do not cross your arms and maintain eye contact so the other person knows that you are paying attention.

    When delivering an important point, do it with a smile.

    Studies have shown that visual presentation - non-verbal cues, including body language - counts because first impressions are made in split seconds.

    In addition, it is how you say things, including the tone of voice, that matters more than what you say.