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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Stupid Simple Way I Keep Myself From Talking Too Much in Meetings

person smiling
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Speaking up in meetings is usually beneficial.

Doing so provides a platform for you to contribute ideas, engage with teammates, and add value. And so, there’s a lot of helpful advice available for people who may be hesitant to share their ideas.

But those searching for the confidence to speak up aren’t the only ones who have trouble navigating meetings. It’s also a challenge for people who tend to talk too much.

I know, because, that’s me. Here’s actual footage of me from a recent meeting:

GIF courtesy of Giphy.

OK, so I’ve gotten the hand-raising under control. But even if you don’t look exactly like you're going to burst, if you’re someone who gets excited to share your ideas, it can be hard to convey that you’re still listening (and not just restraining yourself until it’s your turn).

So, I was on the hunt for a solution that would do two things: remind me to be patient and not interfere with my ability to give the speaker my full attention.

Thanks to weekly conference calls on Google Hangouts, I began to notice something: I naturally rest my hand on face when I’m listening, as do many of the people I work with.

GIF courtesy of Giphy.

This is the look of someone who’s thoughtfully listening. And here’s the best part: If you just slighly shift your hand, you can give off the same impression—and have a physical barrier (a.k.a., reminder) that it’s not your turn yet.

It looks something like this:

GIF courtesy of Giphy.

It’s not quite so exaggerated, but you catch my drift. In fact, if you look around the next meeting you’re in, I bet you’ll notice people with a finger or hand over their mouths as they listen or think.

To everyone else, you look engaged. But you’ll be hyper-aware of when you’re about to speak up, because you’ll have to physically move your hand.

Translation: If you’ve been struggling with a reputation as an interrupter or a know-it-all, this could just be the simple fix you can implement right this moment.

The last time I wrote about ways to avoid contributing too much, I—understandably—received some feedback that I shouldn't encourage anyone to play down their thoughts and abilities. And to be clear: That's not my intention.

This strategy is for the times when you know it wouldn’t be respectful or appropriate for you to chime in—say, if someone else is in the middle of speaking of presenting. In these instances, having an easy, unnoticable way to keep yourself from streamrolling others can help you get ahead.

Are you going to give this a shot? Tell me on Twitter.