Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Anne Sugar, executive coach for the Harvard Business School Executive Program and guest lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers five tips to help you effectively share your point of view in meetings without monopolizing the conversation.
After a meeting, Sugar suggests taking some time to reflect. "If you feel like you have been sharing too much, look back and consider who else contributed," Sugar writes. She suggests honestly asking yourself if you spoke over others in the meeting and estimating how much of the meeting you were talking.
Since there is not a specific measurement that can indicate how much you should or should not talk, Sugar notes that you will need to rely on your gut. "If you notice you have a pattern of talking over others, it's time for a reset," Sugar writes. "Moving forward, make an effort to prioritize listening over talking."
To do this, Sugar suggests establishing rules for when you want to share. For example: "I won't speak until at least two other people in the meeting have shared their input," or "I will limit my sharing to one point." Or, "I will time myself and allow only three minutes of speaking." Sugar writes.
"While you don't want to limit your speaking time forever, adhering to the time rule in the beginning will help you build the habit of yielding the floor," she adds.
Sugar suggests considering alternative ways to organize and communicate ideas. If you tend to ramble, Sugar recommends sharing ideas in a non-meeting setting—for example, in a follow-up email or chat.
"Use whatever forms of communication are at your disposal to help organize your thoughts," Sugar writes. "You'll then communicate well-thought-out concepts when you do share."
When speaking, Sugar emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the things you say are "necessary and impactful."
She suggests writing down the ideas you plan to discuss in a meeting beforehand. According to Sugar, this will help you better assess the way you deliver ideas. "Once you establish a rhythm for compressing your thoughts, you won't need to take much time to prepare and practice," Sugar writes.
"Think of yourself as an editor eliminating words and ideas that don't communicate the essence of what you want to share," she adds.
To avoid monopolizing a meeting or conversation, Sugar suggests asking yourself if you give your colleagues enough time to think about the things you say and ask follow-up questions. "If not, give yourself a signal to pause," she suggests.
"This straightforward tactic can be amazingly effective. By slowing down and taking deliberate pauses, you'll be able to regulate your impulse to overshare, and your message will have a better chance of landing," Sugar writes.
If you are unsure whether you are oversharing, you can ask a trusted colleague to evaluate how well you meet your goal of speaking less and listening more, Sugar writes. Their feedback "could provide additional insights that you can use for future conversations," she notes.
Ultimately, "[w]hile it's important to share your point of view, it's critical to know when and how," Sugar writes. "Experiment with some or all of these tactics to make sure your input is being heard." (Sugar, Harvard Business Review, 5/20)
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