You want to speak up, stand out, get your voice heard, make good points at meetings, and build a positive reputation as a worthwhile contributor--and maybe even someone with leadership potential. But you're a bit introverted, and unsure how to be assertive and outspoken in a way that doesn't make you cringe.
So, how can you be noticed and speak your mind, without compromising who you are?
1. Don't underestimate the value of your insights.
This is the first step. Remember you have something to say. You're on the team for a reason. So trust your gut. If something in the course of the conversation strikes you as worthy of being said--say it. And if you're hesitant, know that psychological research suggests that introducing novel ideas to the group--even ones the group doesn't ultimately embrace -- will improve creativity and decision making.
2. Find the words that work for you.
There is no single way to be assertive. You don't have to blow people's doors off with uber-assertive comments like: "I don't buy that" or "That will never work" -- especially if it doesn't feel comfortable for you. Instead, pick words and phrases that feel natural, or natural enough. For example, you might show assertiveness through careful, deliberate questioning -- as in: "That's interesting--can you tell me more about why you believe that?" Or "That's an interesting point, but what I've seen in the industry is..." The point is that you can be assertive, but on your own terms and in a way that works for you.
3. Be a problem solver.
Finally, one of the very best ways to command respect is to be a problem solver. So, do your homework, and come prepared with solutions to vexing problems that the group is struggling with. And make these solutions evidence-based - grounded in research you've done or analyses you've conducted. People respect good ideas and smart solutions and this can be a great way to show assertiveness in a way that plays to your strengths as a smart, strategic thinker.
In the end, remember that assertiveness isn't just for people who love the sound of their voice. You can be assertive -- and make a real, concrete, memorable impact on a group -- without being a loud-mouthed jerk in the process.