Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

business meeting English

Do you panic and stay quiet in meetings with international English-speaking colleagues?

Many students do this because they create an identity for themselves and they say, “I am the one who doesn’t speak at these meetings.”

How can you stop getting locked into that identity and start participating to succeed at work?

We’ll show you how to do it today.


We All Play Different Roles

You may be a different participant in certain settings.

You may be a natural leader and therefore feel comfortable giving a speech or leading a project.

Then when you have to just participate in something, you might be a bit quieter.

This is just one example but it shows that we are all different versions of ourselves at different times especially when it comes to speaking English.


Building An Identity Can Be A Fun Challenge

This is really the focus here because we all create identities for ourselves.

We all have visions of who we are and how we act.

This changes so much depending on the context- where, who, what we’re doing. 

These visions may be our best friend or our worst enemy for English learners.

When we build an identity and let it take over. We have no way of breaking through it.


Real Life Examples

In a phone meeting you may be talking to colleagues who speak native English.

You may be across the world from these colleagues, and so you create an identity for yourself as being the one who doesn’t speak in the meetings.

You may not speak up much because you’re not confident in your English speaking abilities.

Yet you feel challenged in this situation so you take on a different identity to protect yourself.


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Face the Challenge

You don’t want to hide behind an identity that isn’t really you.

So though you may struggle with speaking English, you want to face this challenge head on.

The more that you are able to face this with confidence, the better it will work for you.

Let’s take a look at a scenario that shows this very situation that you have likely faced at times in your life and ability to speak English in a comfortable way.


So let’s imagine that you work in an international company- and you have to communicate every week with your colleagues from the US- maybe California. They are all native speakers and they converse freely. You happen to be the only non-native speaker.

But even worse, we aren’t talking about meetings in person here where we can read body language or write things down. No, that’s not the case at all! We’re talking about phone meetings- with the big speaker placed right in the middle of the table.


It’s Normal To Try To Protect Yourself Sometimes

The context itself is not inherently scary.

It’s scary because we immediately build identities for ourselves.

We do this so quickly and often without even thinking about it.

In that moment, we say to ourselves, “I am the one who doesn’t speak up in these meetings.”

So even if we know we have to provide value or we know that our boss is looking for our feedback it is much more important to protect ourselves in that moment. 

And once we’ve created that identity it almost becomes an excuse to not speak up.

This becomes part of our comfort zone and we don’t want to get out of it under any circumstance.

It’s very common to retreat and to create identities to protect ourselves.

However, you don’t have to think of it this way.


Pay Attention to Your Thoughts

If you are the only non-native English speaker, it may be common to want to protect yourself.

It’s far easier to say very little and not worry about getting criticized or feeling silly.

If you really think about it though, it’s not just about vocabulary. It’s actually much more about a mindset.

Here is a quote from the Buddha which may reflect exactly what we’re saying today:

“What we think, we become”- Buddha

Though creating different versions of ourselves can protect us, then we never really get to be who we are.

Just because it’s easy to change who you are in that moment or in that situation doesn’t mean you should do it!


Fighting The Urge To Change Who You Are

We all have the desire to change who we are when we are uncomfortable. You have to find it within you not to give into that urge though.

Just because you haven’t mastered the English language doesn’t mean you should hide from using it.


Here Are Some Tips:

  • When a new habit starts like a Monday weekly meeting: In that first meeting speak up and speak out! Don’t let your mind build this identity that you have to hide behind. 
  • Build a different identity right from the start: You are the one who speaks up. Trick your mind into believing this and feeling comfortable doing it. 
  • Name it: Another way to get out of the grip of this identity as the one who doesn’t speak is to name it in front of people. Then when you do have an opportunity to speak out you can say:
    • “I know I don’t often speak up in these meetings but….”
  • Realize that your mind is trying to keep you safe, but then realize that there is nothing to keep safe from. When you’re doing business with Americans at least, you are in more danger if you don’t speak up.
  • Remember that this is an issue about habits and your identity. You have to work at overcoming your own thoughts. It’s not a technical issue. You have all of the tools you need to contribute to the conversation and the meeting. Don’t make an excuse and say that you don’t know how to say what you want to say.


You Have The Power To Change This

We won’t ever see real results until we make these changes.

We won’t be able to make the impact we want to make at work or with our friends unless we speak up and act like our true selves. 

In the end this is all about awareness- now that you are “onto yourself” you can start to pick away at this.

Your goal is to see through that identity your mind created and change it for the better.

You can also use that same energy and create a new one- you can be the one who actually speaks up. 



You may feel the desire to change our identity often as you are learning the English language.

You might find yourself slipping into the identity of “the one who stays quiet.”

Fight that urge and instead focus on being confident in who you are.

This is how you can master the English language and feel comfortable talking to anyone so that you can succeed in your career and your life.


Are you taking IELTS in 2018?

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Keep the questions coming–if you have a question please leave it in the comments below.

We’ll get back to you right away.


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