Not everyone can be supremely confident in meetings or group discussions, but employers would be wise to listen to the quiet ones. You’ll often find that those who shout loudest in the workplace are sometimes the ones with the least to say, while those who keep their peace will almost always bring something valuable to the conversation.
Rather than give the floor to the most vocal individuals in the room, here is why employers should give the quiet ones more room to talk.
We’ve all sat in meetings where people keep talking over one another, or voices get louder and louder as the discussion becomes more heated. The most vocal people can generate a lot of heat and not much light, so determined to get their contribution heard that they completely switch off from what everyone else is saying.
No meeting can progress if there’s too much voice-raising and not enough listening, and therefore useful debate. If those in charge of the meeting want to make some real headway, the best course of action is to take charge, tell certain people to pipe down and maybe invite the quieter ones in the room to chip in. Giving them a platform will encourage them to speak up if they do have a worthwhile contribution, but they’ll also know to pass the baton back if they have nothing to add.
A way to get everyone in the room contributing is to go round the group, inviting people to share ideas and suggestions one at a time. Some individuals don’t like to be put on the spot, which is why it’s best to inform those contributing in the meeting beforehand to come prepared.
Chances are that while everyone else is speaking, the quiet ones are mulling things over and will have something genuinely useful to contribute if and when they get the chance. People who are too quick to jump in and have their say seldom offer up fully-formed ideas – if you’re too quick to open your mouth, what tumbles out is rarely worth hearing.
That means that when the quiet ones do chip in, they really can have words of wisdom to impart. You might spot them taking notes, which can be a good sign that it’s time to invite them to take the floor. Never push someone to join in if they’re clearly not comfortable with the situation, but also don’t mistake shyness for disinterest. They’re usually the most engaged people in the team.
Quieter team members aren’t always the strongest verbal communicators, but you’ll probably find they more than make up for that through the written word. Inviting people to drop you an email if they have any more ideas after the meeting can be the quickest way to hear what the quieter ones are actually thinking, and their thoughts are just as valuable for being written down as they would be spoken out loud.
Writing things down instead of speaking up also gives them more time to reflect and find the best way to phrase things. If you get a follow-up email with something really valuable in it, you can always pass it on to the rest of the team. Check that they don’t mind being credited with the ideas, though, because some people would rather remain under the radar.
There’s truth to the saying that still waters run deep. If you have quieter individuals on your team, be sure to give them the time and space they need to express things in a way they’re most comfortable with. You’ll often find that those who keep quiet have the most to say.
Lizzie Exton writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.
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