Business meetings can sometimes feel like social experiments to observe workplace dynamics in action. Perhaps you pick up on the way a coworker expertly sways the conversation towards the desired outcome. Maybe you cringe when a timid teammate painfully attempts to voice an opinion only to be ignored. But there is one thing you should start paying attention to if you want to improve your own skills: How the most confident people carry themselves.
“Ultimately, meetings are very much a skill where success is measured by the ability to maximize output (results) while minimizing input (people-time). It takes confidence to adroitly steer meetings, maximize everyone’s contributions, keep the rhythm, etc. Without confidence, there is a good chance you won’t contribute to your full potential,” says Simon Pouliot, management expert, investor and founder of SOLSTIS, a soon-to-be-launched hard seltzer brand.
“Fortunately, confidence is something that can be trained and developed with deliberate effort, like seeking feedback after meetings, preparing ahead of time and asking for the help of allies and senior mentors who can prop you up or toss you a softball during meetings so you can contribute and start cutting your teeth.
While highly confident people have great meeting etiquette and productive habits around conducting and participating in discussions, there are also things that you would never catch them doing. And in order to improve your own confidence levels and project self-assurance, it’s important to learn from both their dos and don’ts. “There’s a misconception that confident people in meetings are those who speak first, speak often or speak over others. In reality, these habits are often indicative of some type of insecurity. The highly confident have quite different habits,” says Pouliot.
Ready to learn from the best? Here are seven things truly confident professionals avoid doing in meetings.
1. They don’t pretend to know everything
“In my experience, the most confident people I’ve observed in meetings show a very healthy amount of humility,” says Pouliot. According to him, these top performers recognize the limits of their knowledge and aren’t afraid to ask questions — even seemingly naïve ones. “One of the most senior and respected leaders I worked with often used to say (in the presence of other very senior folks), ‘I have no idea what I’m talking about.’”
Now, this habit is not about showing up unprepared and wasting other participants’ time. It’s about keeping an open mind and putting your ego aside in favor of reaching desired outcomes.
2. They don’t dodge feedback
Being able to take feedback is a cornerstone of true confidence. So it’s no surprise that highly confident people routinely seek feedback at the end of meetings. “It’s perfectly acceptable — and even admirable — to ask someone on your team, ‘Hey, how did I do in this meeting? How did I come across? Did I contribute enough? Were my interventions well-timed? Did I give everyone a chance to speak?’” says Pouliot. Don’t be shy, requesting feedback is the fastest way to step your game up.
3. They don’t hold back from asking questions
Confident professionals never hesitate about asking for clarification. They don’t want to end up leaving a meeting without fully understanding the stakes of a situation and know that confusion is the bane of productivity. “Asking clarifying questions during meetings is important because you don’t want to end up in a situation where you end the meeting completely lost,” says Pouliot. Besides, others will probably feel grateful for your intervention: If something is unclear to you, it might also be unclear to them.
4. They don’t speak for the sake of speaking
“Confident people avoid voicing their opinions on every single point being discussed or trying to win every discussion,” says Pouliot. “Since confident people trust in their abilities, they don’t feel a need to prove themselves at every given opportunity. Instead, they weigh in on crucial points, make their contributions count and help bring the best out of others because they recognize that the meeting is not about them – it’s about collective success.”
5. They don’t stay quiet when they have opinions
On the other hand, highly confident people are not afraid of sharing their opinions when they do have something valuable to bring to the table. Pouliot says that while it’s easy to feel intimidated in certain meetings and hold back from the fear of saying something irrelevant, that attitude could ultimately deprive others of crucial input. You don’t want to walk out of a meeting wishing you had mustered up the courage to voice something important.
6. They don’t derail conversations
According to Pouliot, the most confident people avoid overextending discussions or getting stuck on minor contention points — and they actually intervene to prevent the conversation from derailing if necessary.
“They can do this because they have the courage and EQ necessary to very politely intervene when meeting participants are stuck debating a certain point for an extended period of time at the expense of more important agenda items. On the other hand, insecure people will litigate topics just to prove a point without realizing that the meeting is not moving forward because of them.”
7. They don’t forget about their teammates
Truly confident people uplift those who have less confidence. And they’ll even do so in the context of a meeting, especially when they know there are behavioral biases at play.
“We have to recognize that some people may not feel as confident contributing in meetings and I wish leaders knew how to build the confidence of their colleagues to get the best contribution out of them and to support their professional growth,” says Pouliot.