Extraordinary Team Blog

I’m the Only One Talking!

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 12, 2010

If it walks like a duck, it probably is a duck.  If you think you are doing all the talking, you probably are!  To get more interaction, provide opportunities for team members to physically and mentally engage them in the team’s work:

Suffer the Silence.  Some people keep talking because they are uncomfortable with gaps in conversation.  If you pose a question and don’t wait for an answer, it becomes a “rhetorical” question — one that does not require an answer.  Keep asking rhetorical questions, and no one will bother to offer an opinion.  They will let you dominate the conversation.  Instead, consider silence as your friend.  Don’t shy away from gaps in the conversation.  Silence allows people to think, ponder, and react to what you are saying.

Change the Focus.  Is the conversation all about you and what you want (some call this your “hidden agenda,” but it’s probably on display for all to see all too often).  Reverse the flow of the conversation to focus on them and what they want.  For example, rather than sharing what you think about the report, ask the team what they think about the report.  This might take some getting used to, so you may have to suffer the silence a bit as you train your team to provide their input.

Split Them Up.  Some people are shy in large group settings, so ask people to tackle the question in pairs or triads.  They may be able to talk more freely in small groups.  Just be sure to bring the team back together to debrief what the groups discussed and agree on the path forward.

Go Around.  Ask each person what they think about the topic.  Make it clear you want to hear from everyone, even if it is “I have no opinion.”  You can use the “round-robin” technique where you start with one person offering up their idea, and then systematically move to the next person to their right (or left).

Stop It.  Multi-tasking is your specialty as you lead the meeting, take notes, keep track of time and the process.  Simply put, you are working too hard.  Transition some of these roles to other team members: scribe, recorder, timekeeper, process observer or facilitator.  Don’t let them just sit there and be done unto!  Get them up and involved in the team’s work.

Have a Clue.  Look at the context; is the room freezing cold and inhibiting conversation?  Did everyone just get off a grueling shift and would rather go home?    Sometimes you have to look at all the factors that might be affecting the team’s work.  If you can, mitigate or remove those barriers to ensure more participation on the team.

Question:  Are you doing all the talking on your team?

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