I am a quiet person. There I have admitted it to all the world. I have heard that I am too quiet for years from family, friends, managers, and potential employers. I agree with them that I am a quiet person; I consider myself an introvert who likes to retreat to quiet spaces to recharge and am a reflection of that quiet space.
I was never the one to be called out in the classroom for chatting with my friends while the teacher lectured. When I am in a meeting, I like to listen to all the view points and soak in the information. I feel that I do chime in if and only if I can contribute meaningfully to the conversation, not just to hear myself talk, pick arguments, or prolong the conversation. Yet I am still told that I am still too quiet and need to speak more. This is the one constant piece of advice I have to hear from recruiters, potential employers, and managers over the years.
Last fall I finally decided to take control of this situation. I joined my local Toastmasters group to improve my verbal communication skills. I have tried to join Toastmasters before, but I never got to the point of ever really giving any speeches. This time was different. I have now made it through my eighth speech project and only have two more before completing the competent communicator series. During this time I have also presented at two conferences.
One week the Toastmaster for our meeting said, “Toastmasters is a group that helps you speak without fear and lead with confidence.” I would not say that I have no fear or even less fear giving a speech in the speeches I’ve given, plus two presentations as well as the additional speaking roles during other meetings. I am still nervous. I was very nervous for my presentation at that last conference presentation wondering if anyone would even show up and I was very nervous about the speech I gave at the Toastmaster meeting this week wondering if I would drop my props or run over time or whether or not anyone would like my speech. Despite all the doubts and nervousness, I do have, I am able to push past them, practice and give my speech or my presentation. My participation in Toastmasters so far has improved my self-confidence to overcome some of those doubts and nervousness.
I don’t expect to be the center of attention at the party or to suddenly turn into an extrovert. I do hope to see continued improvement in my self-confidence and verbal communication skills. as I continue to participate in Toastmasters.
(Repurposed from my article in the FY17 Society of Women Engineers MAL Newsletter 4 May 2017)