"Actually, no. I wasn't going to speak to that point at all. I'm going to share a non-headquarter perspective."
I'm on a panel discussion, and I'm correcting my fellow panelist. For the 3rd or 4th time he’s started his comments by referring to me, and speculating about my background and what I'm going to say. For some reason he has positioned me as a headquarter person.
I don't like it.
I’m starting to feel minimized by his actions, so this time after he spoke, I set my boundary and started a new topic of discussion to distance myself from him.
I wasn't rude or confrontational. But I wasn't going to let someone else speak for me, and my fellow panelist stopped referring to me.
I stopped being distracted, and refocused on providing unique insight for the audience. Afterwards multiple people asked me about my non-headquarter experience, and I was invited to several other events.
It’s been a long time since I felt discounted.
During the panel discussion I let it go a few times, thinking the other panelist was young and insecure. But when I noticed it was only happening to me and not the other panelists, I decided it was time to establish my voice.
I used to ignored being discounted until it was unbearable, then vent my frustrations to my friends.
That tactic didn't work.
Venting only kept me stuck. Occasionally I confronted discounting, but because I let it build up, I was often told it was in my head and that I was too sensitive.
Then it started to change.
It changed when I changed.
It changed when I decided that no one speaks for me, but me. And that changed my confidence, and my clarity.
Is discounting a problem for you or your business?
Here are 5 tips on handling discounting
Own your opinion
A clear, unequivocal position is important. I used to be overly focused on being collaborative and set myself up to be discounted. I was often unclear because I didn’t own my position, or tried to soften my approach.
Then I started preparing better, and walking into meetings with an opinion.
I decided I would force myself to speak up and offer a confident position in every meeting. I asked for feedback on my nonverbals like body language and upspeak, and I learned to raise my tone if people talked over me, and not back down.
Own your performance
Yes, being discounted feels terrible, but is someone really giving your valid criticism?
Being called out for not knowing the material, being confused, or failing to enroll people ahead of time, is the not the same as being discounted. If you're unprepared, expect to be held accountable.
Don’t make excuses for poor performance and call it discounting.
The people who tend to dominate conversations are likely dominating other people, not just you.
When I’m in a meeting with a few dominant voices, I ask the leader for meeting norms, and enlist others to help manage interruptions. Being diminished can be isolating, so use the power of the team, and the meeting leader.
I don't feel the need to confront every incident of discounting, but I have 3 rules of thumb:
- Ignore it if it's random and occasional.
- Confront it if it's ongoing.
- React to it if it's starting to distract me from my message.
Sometimes I react by confronting directly, but I also use other tactics including: changing the topic, speaking in in a louder tone, or clearly disagreeing with the person, and then making my point.
If you're an organization’s leader - set the tone
Your job is encourage everyone to have an equal voice, which means it's up to you confront and prevent discounting.
Establish a no interruption policy, and periodically check in with the individuals on how they feel. And expect that everyone confronts discounting, and listens with respect.
Discounting can be blatant or subtle, intentional or accidental, but the effect is the same.
Someone feels diminished.
And it’s the type of problem that can eat away at you, distract you, drain your confidence.
And steal your power.
You have a voice and your voice matters.
You don't have to let anyone speak for you...
Looking for a challenge? Take a look at this popular posts on Evoke.
Check out the The Career Toolbox page for more practical tips and tools.
Do you have something to say, but struggle to say it? Contact me at email@example.com to get more information or find about my popular workshop, "How to say who you are and what you do in 20 words or less".