We Ask the Question – Is Being Quiet in Meetings Ok?
“You didn’t have much to say in that meeting?”
Has a work colleague ever muttered this rhetorical question to you?
If you take a ‘church mouse’ approach to meetings – office-based or online – such observations have the ability to dent your confidence and even self-worth.
But selective speaking in group settings isn’t necessarily a negative trait. In fact, far from it.
Here, we explore the question: is being quiet in meetings ok? and detail why a ‘softly, softly’ approach may be more effective than it might seem.
What Does More Really Get You?
There’s a misconception that more talking means more is being said. And that more is being achieved, for that matter.
Sometimes, it feels as though a meeting’s worth is measured in words spent – that an inflated character count automatically equates to heightened outcomes.
That’s not always the case.
Sure, robust conversations with input from various contributors can be hugely beneficial within workplaces, leading to tangible actions and results.
After all, meetings are intended to bring together talented individuals with smart and creative minds and diverse thoughts and ideas in the knowledge that this combination has the potential to pay dividends.
However, the intention of a meeting and the way it often plays out are sometimes completely different things.
Instead, we repeatedly wind up with sessions dominated, and even sidetracked, by a select few that are rich with words but lacking for substance. More on that soon…
With speaking, the real skill lies in saying a lot without saying much at all. There’s genuine power in dialogue that takes the shortest route to get to its point – free from clichés and marketing fluff.
There’s a wonderful quote attributed to Argentine literary figure, Jorge Luis Borges, that states:
“Don’t talk unless you can improve on the silence.”
It’s a great way of thinking about your input within a meeting – and the approach to conversations generally – whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
It also lends more weight to the argument that being quiet in meetings is ok.
Being Quiet in Meetings – the Silent Skill
While words can be powerful (at least well-constructed ones can be), there’s real strength in listening, too. It’s an underrated attribute.
And not surface-level word ingestion, but proper listening. Soaking in the thoughts of others to the degree that they evoke learnings and inspire actions.
After all, the point of just about every workplace meeting should be to provoke an action of some sort.
There’s another interesting quote, this one attributed to a Japanese manga artist by the name of Masashi Kishimoto. It reads:
“The weaker you are, the louder you bark.”
They’re profound words, but it pays to interpret them with some leeway.
Not everyone who dominates the ‘scoreboard’ in the meeting room is dripping with insecurity and ineptness and failing to offer value to the conversation. Not even close.
Meetings aren’t meetings if everyone is silent, and those with confidence and insightfulness should have a platform to speak.
But what this quote does demonstrate is that in some cases the external image that’s portrayed isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of what is happening on the inside – and vice versa.
Are Meetings Overvalued?
Contrasting personalities and how they react within collaborative environments is only half the story.
Studies have shown that group brainstorming sessions are often overhyped as a platform for ideation, as they tend to be limiting.
The theory implies that while dominant colleagues freely express their views, quieter or more apprehensive team members are restrained with their thoughts for fear of judgement – not surprising considering all that we’ve covered.
But the kicker is that even among a group where everyone feels confident enough to share ideas, these joint sessions blunt creativity.
The argument infers that in this environment colleagues tend to mimic each other’s thoughts, so consensus is reached easily and without exploring a wider range of opinions and possibilities.
This view suggests better outcomes can be achieved through individual brainstorming tasks or similar independent activity.
Making Words Count
So, is being quiet in meetings ok? Absolutely it is!
Of course, reservedness does not excuse an employee’s outright apathy or clear disinterest in their profession or workplace.
But there’s simply no reason to feel self-conscious about not saturating a room with words if they offer no or little value to the conversation.
We’ve all been in those meetings that seem to go round in circles with nauseating repetition.
Despite what some people might think, it’s not a talent to be able to say the same thing 10 different ways (unless that means you have the ability to speak 10 different languages!).
Instead, a solid strategy for approaching any meeting is to listen carefully (and even take notes), use meaningful expressions, and speak thoughtfully when required.
It’s less about the word count and more about words that count.
Finally, a do-er beats a talker any day.
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