I read a semi-interesting article Low Risk Ways to Speak Up in a Meeting – which is supposed to teach you how to stand out more by contributing to a meeting, because it’s true that most companies today take the strategy of “up or out”, they expect people to actively engage and contribute, they look for the future leaders, and those who don’t make themselves noticed risk being weeded out.

I agree the phrases

  • Have we thought about…
  • Did anyone mention…
  • Another option we might want to consider…

are OK, they effectively lead in on what you want to say without sounding too dominant.

But these phrases I just find too stupid, when trying to catch a point. They just make you seem too low on confidence.

  • Forgive me if I’m a bit behind the 8-call, but I’m confused about…
  • This might be a dumb question, but…
  • I’m sure I’m supposed to know this, but…

And these phrases are just too artificial for my taste, when expressing disagreement. They are too artificial and too “corporate fake”.

  • Be blunt: I respectfully disagree. (would you call this being blunt?)
  • Be cagey: Playing devil’s advocate… (Dictionary explains cagey as someone showing mental alertness, calculation and resourcefulness? what is cagey about this statement?)
  • Be provocative: I’d like to throw a curve ball here and suggest something very different… (using a sports term is so cheesy. that’s the only provocative).

I think the author of this article makes the reader sound too insecure. Instead I present to you my versions of the same phrases.
Expressing need to catch up on something you fell behind on, while still sounding much more confident.

  • Interesting. I have a question, can you explain…
  • Let me think. I am trying to understand what you are saying, so I will ask a question..
  • Let me see if I understand you correctly. Is it true that …

Expressing disagreement, sounding more confident.

  • I don’t agree, because … (indicating disagreement very clearly, but providing the reason why you disagree).
  • Let’s turn this up-side-down for a moment. Consider the following… (indicating resourcefulness by looking at a matter from a different perspective, while aiming focus on solving potential problems or obstacles).
  • I have a different idea. Here is my idea… (being truly direct).

Here is more of my favourite phrases to use in meetings. They are to be considered high-risk, i.e. don’t use them unless you have the balls to back them up. Warning: intended for Norwegian culture only. For an international audience, use more polite variation. 

  • I listened to what all of you have been saying for the last half an hour. I can hear only one good idea, and that is …
  • I find meetings very boring. Let me wrap this up for you, and let’s go with my idea which is..
  • If we can’t land this decision in one hour then we have the wrong people in this meeting. This should not take too much time to figure out.
  • (board meeting): I don’t want to waste your time or mine. I will go directly to the point. Here’s a project plan and here’s what you need and what it is going to cost. But as you will see it’s the most cost-effective, easy and thus fun way to get the job done.

And my favourite thing to say in a meeting: Warning: intended for Norwegian culture only. For an international audience, use more polite variation.

  • I don’t like meetings. You have too many meetings. You keep like this and you never get anything done. I will take my tasks now immediately, then I will leave and in one week everything will be done and I will send you the bill, you will be happy and I will get a good reference.

A variation of the above Warning: intended for Norwegian culture only. For an international audience, use more polite variation.

  • I will interrupt now. What I suggest is this… Here is how you do it… Goodbye, call me when you are ready to take action and finish discussing.