Meetings often unfold similar to encounters on the playground: Passive and dominating attendees annoy each other and complicate things.
So why not simply let the passive meeting participants fade into the woodwork and let the dominators take over the game board? Several reasons:
In an ideal world, all meeting participants would play nice. They would arrive on time, put away their devices, tune in to the discussion, contribute passionately, listen to their colleagues’ opinions, understand the logical flow of the commentary, resolve conflict amicably, leave fully committed to the group’s decisions, and be accountable for any assigned follow-up action.
But they don’t. So whether you’re the leader or participant, you can help keep things on track:
Giving verbal pats on the back typically encourages the person to keep talking and explaining. (Examples: “That’s an intriguing idea. Others?” “Good idea.” “I like that.” “That could work.”) Withholding such pats can extinguish the dominator’s input.
If someone continues a dialogue long after it should have ended, chances are great that’s because the dominator feels compelled to have “the last word.” So let him. Give eye contact, a smile, a nod, or an open palm. Then turn to someone else for another contribution on the topic.
“Let’s hear from several people on this issue.” “Somebody from Legal—what do you think about the proposed change?” Or: “I’d like to hear everyone weigh in on this issue. What do the rest of you think?”
Bring others into a discussion intentionally. “Jaime, what do you think about X?” It’s difficult for a dominator to continue talking over another person when someone redirects traffic to a specific person.
Simply break eye contact, and divert attention elsewhere. If on a teleconference, break the dominator’s train of thought during a long ramble by asking a question: “Julie, excuse me for interrupting here: Let me ask you a question about what you just said.” Then ask a short-answer question. That distraction typically breaks the ramble and gives you opportunity to regain the floor after the person’s short answer.
“Tyler, before we get off on another track here, I’d like us to spend more time discussing how to ….” Calling a person’s name puts him or her on the spot in a gentle way to relinquish the floor—and refocuses discussion quickly to avoid embarrassing anyone.
Playing word games on your smartphone is not the answer to meaningless meetings. Instead, contribute value by paying attention to process, rescuing an inept facilitator, and helping to control dominators.
For more tips on how to improve communication in meetings, grab a copy of my book Communicate Like A Leader: To Coach, Inspire And Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.
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