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Shhhh – silent meeting in progress

Those with quiet voices, who are often overlooked or told to make more of an effort to speak up in group situations, are some of our most powerful thinkers. Look at Einstein and Bill Gates. But in a culture obsessed with problem-solving in groups or via workshops, we look at how introverts can make their point heard.

It’s all got rather noisy, hasn’t it? Bragging, broadcasting, speaking over others, self-promoting, ‘owning the moment’. We’re surrounded by it. I’m probably guilty of doing it myself at times, trying to get yourself heard in a room full of people who are all doing the same. So, isn’t it refreshing when you meet someone who quietly listens, reflects, carefully takes stock of a situation, people or the challenge on the table before opening their mouth?

These quiet voices, so often overlooked or told to make more of an effort to speak up in group situations, are some of our most powerful thinkers. Look at Einstein and Bill Gates – two of the most famous (and proud) introverts. But in a culture obsessed with problem solving in groups or via workshops, how do introverts make their point heard?

To get a truly rich and inclusive result, maybe we need to think beyond the traditional model. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has introduced the notion of the silent meeting. Rather than hitting the ground running, when his senior team meet, meetings start with a 30-minute silence. This gives attendees time to review and reflect on content relevant to the meeting, make notes and engage brain. Sure, in the ideal world this should happen before the event. But this is so much more than just a time management tool. It gives introverts time to get their thoughts in order. And it’s giving extroverts no choice other than to rest their voice and reflect.

It’s not to say that introverts are always right. The law of averages would say that good and bad ideas are fairly evenly spread across introverts, extraverts and ambiverts (someone right in the middle of the two). But because extraverts speak louder and more frequently, their ideas – good and bad – are more likely to be heard.

So next time someone suggests a brainstorm or workshop, think about how it can be adapted to become truly effective for everyone, no matter how they communicate. Try asking for input before the meeting, try a silent start. Or better yet, if you’re not one, ask an introvert to help you design the best approach. It’ll help ensure folk, who have a different way of expressing themselves, will be heard. You never know, they may well have just the answer we’re looking for.

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