The following blog appeared on Sharlyn Lauby’s HR Bartender blog. Sharlyn is an HR pro turned consultant.
I ran across this article on The Muse titled “3 Signs You’re Talking Way Too Much in Meetings (and How to Stop Being that Person).” It’s a good read and worth checking out. But it prompted me to ask, “What about the person who doesn’t talk enough?” Yes, it’s possible to not talk enough during meetings.
When you’re invited to a meeting, it’s because people want you to share your thoughts. Just because someone is talking a lot is no excuse not to participate. You have something valuable to say. If you don’t talk at meetings you could be sending the wrong message–such as you don’t have anything to contribute, you don’t care about the outcome, or you simply agree with the conversation.
The next time you’re in a meeting, here are a couple of things to think about if you find yourself not getting a word in edgewise.
Being an introvert is not an excuse. Confession: I’m an introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I can use that as a reason not to participate in meetings. I’ve been invited and the group expects me to participate.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that I have to feel pressured into commenting or making a decision. Let the other members of the group know how you’re feeling. “This is a really interesting idea. Will we have time to think about it before making a final decision?” Now, be ready for someone to say, “No, we need a decision today.” But in my experience, I’ve found that if I wanted to think about it overnight, most people would give me that time. In fact, I’ve found that some other people will step up and agree they’d like to have a little more time as well.
Don’t let time drive your decision to speak. I’ve done this too many times to count. You’re in that meeting right before lunch or the last one of the day. If you speak, the meeting runs over. So you decide not to.
Instead of not offering your point of view, explain, “I have a couple of things to say. But I want to be sensitive to the time. Do you want to hear them now or should we schedule another meeting?” Give people the option. My guess is most people would prefer not to have another meeting. This does put some pressure on you to keep your comments relevant and brief.
It’s also possible that other people might feel the same way you do. Don’t be surprised if someone else says they have a few more things to say, but didn’t want to speak up because of the time. Now that you’ve broken the ice, it might mean there’s another meeting. The good news is, everyone agreed and is participating at a high level.
Only create a “meeting after the meeting” when appropriate. I’ve written before about the “meeting after the meeting” (aka MATM.) It’s a discussion about things that can’t be said during the meeting itself (at least not at that moment in time.) However, the MATM is not a substitute for the meeting itself.
So, for example, if someone talks too much during the meeting and you can’t get a word in, the MATM isn’t typically just a continuation of the meeting. If a group gets together to complain about the person who talks too much, that’s called a gripe session. Now if someone talks too much and says something controversial, then yes, that’s a reason for a meeting after the meeting–to deal with the controversy.
When I find myself unable to get a word in–and honestly, it happens–I will use body language to send the message that I have something to say. Even if it means going old school and slightly raising my hand. I’m not interrupting anyone and it lets the facilitator know I would like to comment.
Yes, talking too much in meetings is annoying. But not talking in meetings can be equally concerning. It’s all about finding balance. Being a meeting participant is a tough responsibility. We have to meet that challenge!
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