Very few people would say meetings are exciting, efficient, and overall, a great addition to a packed workday. Yet, they’re a necessary evil in the workplace.
However, there’s good news! And that is that you have the power to improve them by taking one small little action: staying quiet.
If you have a great idea, have a strong conviction, or are called upon to weigh in, then yes, speak up. But, if you’re just talking to be heard and to be considered an active participant by your manager, then you have permission to zip your lips.
How do you know when you should speak up and when you should sit silently? Here are three signs you’re actually talking too much:
1. You Repeat Your Co-worker’s Thoughts Without Adding Anything
It’s great when your colleague says something you agree with. But, when you go on and on about how much you concur, it adds time to the meeting. Not only that, it’s a great way to annoy the rest of your co-workers, who probably have other important things they have to attend to.
What to Do Instead
I’m not suggesting you stop agreeing with your co-workers when they have a great idea. And if you have something in mind that you think would propel that thought forward, you should absolutely bring that up. However, if you just agree, feel free to acknowledge that and move on. Simply saying, “Yes, that’s a good point” will go a long way in moving the conversation forward without adding unnecessary noise to the room.
2. You Relate Everything to Your Personal Life
If this is the case for you, congrats. It sounds like you’re part of a team you’d spend time with out of the office, and that is something you should be really excited about. However, if you’re using “personal examples” to illustrate every thought during a meeting, you’re making it way too easy to get off-topic. And you’re probably over-sharing.
What to Do Instead
The best meetings I attend typically reserve the first few minutes for everyone to catch up. But once those few minutes are up, that’s it. Everyone’s attention turns to the task at hand. Even if you’re not leading the conversation, this is still a good mental note to keep for yourself. Unless you’re asked to provide a personal example, or you have one that illustrates the point so perfectly, save it for another time.
3. You Start Debates That Aren’t Relevant to the Conversation
It’s frustrating when you and your team are trying to sort through the details of a tricky project, only to have someone derail the conversation by completely changing the subject. Although you probably have good intentions and usually aren’t trying to bring up a new topic entirely, it’s a time waster, especially because the team now likely has two unresolved issues to get through in a limited amount of time.
What to Do Instead
The solution here is simple—stay engaged in the debate everyone is having. Of course, bring up relevant tangents if it relates back to the meeting’s goal, but don’t interrupt a conversation everyone else is having, just so you can bring up that great idea you’ve been thinking about forever. Waiting just a few minutes will not only help you be present in the current conversation, but it will help you avoid seeming like a “me first” teammate to the rest of your colleagues.
The surprising truth is that the solution to appearing like a contributor during a meeting doesn’t involve talking until you’re blue in the face. Rather, it involves listening to what people are saying and doing your personal best to drive the meeting forward—whether that’s with thoughtful comments or just an approving head nod.
Photo of boring meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author