Saying Less In Meetings

5 reasons to talk less and listen more.

September 29, 2015

One of my goals for this year is to talk less. Lean back. Listen more. Be quieter in meetings.

This is a really hard goal for me to achieve. For years I’ve talked too much. Overshared my opinions. Showered my colleagues with the fruits of my thinking.

Here are some things that I’m learning when I shut up:

#1. You Learn Lots of Things When You Work Hard To Listen:

It’s amazing how much you can learn when you are not trying to jump into the conversation. Listening, it turns out, is hard work. Allocating the energy to listening that I'd normally put into talking means that I'm a better listener, and that I'm learning more.

#2. Often, Your Colleagues Will Say Something Similar (But Better) To What You Would Have Said:

One reason that I talk so much is that I have lots to say. I have opinions, experiences, ideas, information. It turns out that my colleagues also have lots to say, and if I keep my mouth shut then the same information / opinions that I would have voiced are likely to get expressed by somebody else. I'm trying to only speak when what I have to say is not being said by someone else.

#3. Saying Less Is Often The Best Way To Advance Your Ideas and Priorities:

The meetings that I’m in are often all about digital learning. I have lots to say about digital learning. Everyone knows that I have lots to say about digital learning. If I’ve done a halfway decent job in my work then the big ideas that I am championing will already be in circulation. There is nothing more rewarding then hearing respected and cherished colleagues taking the lead in projects and initiatives that you are passionate to see succeed.

#4. Quiet People Might Say Less, But They Know as Much as More Voluble Folks:

By talking less I’m trying to open more space for quiet people to say more. We all know that there is no correlation between the number of words spoken and the quality of the ideas of the speaker.  

#5.  Saying Less Helps Subvert Hierarchies, Leading to Better Decisions:

How often have you witnessed the person with the biggest title say the most during a meeting? The higher someone is in the organizational hierarchy the more likely they are to speak.  The problem with the allocation of speaking time by title is that title is not a good predictor of insight, knowledge, or expertise. 

I'll be the first to admit that this quiet strategy is a work in progress. Sometimes my aspirations to say less run ahead of my actions.  

Maybe my colleagues will read these words, and call me on my talking too much if I should slip.

Are you also someone who talks too much at meetings?


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Joshua Kim

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