Are you timid about expressing your opinions at work? Here’s how to overcome your nerves, so you can share your thoughts in a diplomatic way.

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The topic of women speaking up in the workplace has been buzzing in the news recently, largely due to an essay penned by actress Jennifer Lawrence. She writes about how instead of negotiating boldly and speaking directly she always tried to find the “adorable” way to share her opinion so she would be likable, because she didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled.”

Speaking up — whether it’s in a meeting, negotiating salary or during a conference call — is such a relevant topic for everyone in every office setting, both men and women. Many clients come to me with questions related to expressing themselves clearly, getting rid of jitters that come from speaking during meetings, sharing opinions diplomatically, and more.

So how do you do it? Start with these tips.

Set an expectation. If you get butterflies from the thought of talking during a meeting and often opt out instead of speaking your mind, set an expectation for yourself and your colleagues. Before the meeting, tell your co-workers via email or in person that you have something you’d like to contribute. This gives you a natural lead-in instead of having to stand up, raise your hand or speak over others.

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Get on the agenda. Even further, get onto a meeting agenda if you can! Connect with whomever is facilitating and provide an overview of what you’d like to discuss. Often, critical meetings can end up being rushed or crowded with opinions, and this helps ensure yours is heard instead of skipped over.

Know your audience. Your approach to sharing — and selling — your ideas with your co-workers should be different than talking with your boss, a hiring manager, outside vendor, intern, etc. To connect effectively, think about how your listeners will relate to what you’re saying. Knowing your audience helps ensure their eyes don’t glaze over when you talk, and that they actually hear and listen when you’re speaking up.

Make sure others are heard as well. Noticing when others are being interrupted or silenced and providing assistance so their opinions are heard helps create an inclusive workplace environment, and might mean they’ll do the same for you, too.

Practice in non-work settings. If speaking up at work is a struggle, push yourself to practice in social settings where the stakes aren’t as high. For example, does a relative always interrupt you during family dinners? Try practicing diplomatic statements like “Hold on, let me finish my story first.” Or chime in on a conversation you’re passionate about when you’d normally just listen.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at