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Help For the Tongue-Tied Do you often find it difficult to speak up in a small group? Here are some ways to cope: Pair up with a peacock. Join with someone who is more outgoing than you, or has a higher position within the group. In a social situation, this person can introd uce you and keep talk flowing, or bring up your points in a business meeting and then toss you an opening into the conversation. 'You find an avenue where you a re being pulled in,' says Michael Woodward, a New York organizational psychologi st. Talk to the person running the meeting beforehand. Mention the points you want to discuss and ask for an opportunity to bring them up. Explain why you are asking . Prepare. In a business meeting, know what you want to say, practice your delivery and bring notes. This will help prevent you from being distracted by what other s are saying and wondering how you should respond. 'Any good politician knows hi s talking points,' Dr. Woodward says. Take a break. If you are in a situation that is making you anxious or draining yo ur mental energy, get some water or take a walk. Think of this as resetting your brain, just as you'd turn your computer off to reset it if it were frozen. Realize others in the room likely feel the same way. And remember: The people who froze the most in the Virginia Tech study were actually the smartest. Alissa Fox, a dermatologist from Flemington, N.J., says meetings with other doct ors aren't a problem, but she is sometimes struck silent at neighborhood barbecu es and charity committee meetings. "You get your cues right away," says Dr. Fox, 57. "I will make comments about th ings, but it seems that no one hears me or no one agrees with me. And then I cla m up." Two primary factors influence how we behave in a group: personality and position , says Michael Woodward, an organizational psychologist in New York and author o f "The You Plan: A Five-Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Ec onomy." If you are quiet in a group setting, it doesn't necessarily mean you are shy, bu t it does mean you might be an introvert. Introverts prefer to collect their thoughts before speaking and can be overwhelm ed in a group, especially of extraverts, who tend to "think out loud" and proces s information by speaking. But extraverts also may choke in group settings. Mr. Murphy, the online marketin g representative, says he is typically confident and talkative in a group situat ion. "If I am comfortable in a setting, I can't get my mouth to shut up," he say s.

"Thinking about what I am not saying takes up all the space in my mind that I co uld use to think about what to say. Murphy says. In these situations.That can change if the boss is present or he feels others are more successful. he says he starts to "overthink." And then his brain s huts down like a frozen computer." Mr. . H e recalls feeling flummoxed at dinner with his wife and her graduate-school frie nds.

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