Column: Sit back and listen

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If you scanned the faces at the table, you’d see seven people leaning forward, barely able to stay in their seats, just waiting for their opportunity to speak.

No one is listening to anyone else because they are absolutely certain their comments will provide the ideal groundbreaking insight.

I bet you’ve sat in this meeting before.

Maybe it was with your team, a large client or even at church.

There’s lots and lots of talking taking place – but not much listening.

Unfortunately, the participants in these gatherings fool themselves into believing that progress is being made when in reality, very little is accomplished.

While you can’t change the behavior of everyone else at the table, you can change your approach.

Here’s a handful of simple thoughts to help improve your performance.

First, come to the meeting with a clear personal objective in mind. Are you there to make a decision, provide an update or simply learn something new?

Next, carefully prepare your thoughts to make a meaningful contribution to the effort. If you aren’t ready to add value, then it’s likely that this meeting will be a waste of time.

Now that you’re prepared, here comes the best advice I can give. Unless you’re running the meeting, don’t speak, just listen until someone asks for your opinion. This will go against every grain in your body, because we all love to hear ourselves talk.

There’s a huge upside to staying silent – you begin to thoughtfully consider what everyone is saying and are then able to add meaningful value when appropriate. Another benefit with this approach is that people tend to pay closer attention to individuals who speak the least and choose their words most carefully.

Remember, your goal in every setting is meaningful progress towards a goal. Unless that absolutely requires your input, keep your mouth shut.

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