Advice – Andy Brightman – Trying to be Heard in a Herd


Dear Andy,

I’m a board member for a non-profit organization. We’re raising money to restore the nation’s first rendering facility. It’s a project about which I’m very passionate. Our monthly meetings are lively affairs in which opinions fly fast and furious. I have much to say but there’s never a pause in the conversation for me to speak. I’m an extreme introvert and could never interrupt someone, but I need to express how I feel about converting waste animal tissue. How can I share my thoughts with the group?

Bursting on Beacon Hill

Dear Bursting,

I too have a hard time making myself heard in meetings. It’s not easy for introverts to cut people off and join the verbal fray. We have to devise alternative strategies that work best for us. For example, I always bring my ventriloquist dummy, Tommy to meetings. He isn’t afraid to jump into any conversation. However, there’s no guarantee your dummy will be as extroverted as he.

Have you tried communicating with your fellow board members outside of meetings? I often send 50-page emails summarizing my thoughts. If I have something really important to say I arrange to “accidentally” run into them as they’re leaving home for work. I’ve also had some constructive “surprise” conversations at muffler shops, psychiatrist offices, and funerals.

You have a right to be heard. The world needs to know how you feel about dead animal carcasses. The key is finding a way to communicate that works for you and won’t result in lawsuits or restraining orders.

Andy Brightman is a former CIA intelligence officer. “To Hell and Back: My 35 Years in Cubicle 289D” is his recently-published autobiography. 

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