Walking in cold to a meeting–utterly unprepared? Intimidated by the big guns at the end of the conference table? Fret no more. Here are some hard and fast tips on how to look SMART when you feel TOTALLY LOST:
♦ APPEAR PENSIVE. Cock your head to the side, and squint your eyes.
♦ TAKE NOTES Furiously start jotting down your “thoughts.” It screams, “I’m engaged!” And at the very least, you spare others the effort of remembering what was discussed.
♦ ASK QUESTIONS. In a pinch, if someone barks a question at you, answer it with another question. Yes it’s extremely irritating, but it’s better than stuttering…
♦ AGREE. “I agree with ___ on their last point. Can you tell me what you mean by X, though?” You make friends AND pass time while they blather on.
♦ DELAY REQUESTS with nauseating work jargon. If you’re asked point-blank for any prepared materials, answer: “I’ll email mine afterwards. I wanted to get a sense of what others were thinking before I fleshed mine out.” Using soul-sucking corporate speak like “fleshing out” and “let’s circle back to that” are nauseating, but they also grant you more time.
And how do I know it works? As a brand-spanking newbie at my current job, my first inclination in dubious situations was to shrug my shoulders with a sheepish grin and say sorry a lot. If I was volunteering at a bake sale, my self-deprecating approach would work fine. But my male bosses spurred me to change my ways. I found their empathy and patience ran thinner than more laid back females at my last job. Not to mention, half the time they were too busy to tell me what the meeting was even about. I was acting as the queen squinty-eyed note taker in no time. As I got more settled in, I had to pretend less and less: I had valid questions, I knew what was expected of me, and I learned to communicate better with my boss.
Bottom line: Act like you know what you’re talking about. Until you do.