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Why shutting up in meetings is not such a bad idea

By Nancy Nzalambi | Aug 25th 2019 | 5 min read

Talking less or being quieter in meetings allows you to lean back and start to listen more. Listening more means learning different ideas and getting new opinions. Meetings are not games that are meant to be won by people who speak the most or a one-man show where the rest just sheepishly nod. If there’s one problem that plagues most meetings it’s that a few participants are doing most of the talking.

So, are you among the people who just can’t keep quiet in meetings? It could be, that you talk to seek acknowledgment or simply because you are nervous and uncomfortable with silence. However, keeping quiet is a valuable skill in meetings. You appear to be more confident and intelligent. Plus, it will surprise you how much you can learn from just listening.

Listening improves your interpersonal skills and boosts your knowledge in general. There should be a goal you set that whenever you leave a meeting, you will have learnt something new. This means you will be shutting up, listening and it sure will pay off.

5 things that happen when you shut up in meetings…

1.   Gain knowledge

You have heard of the saying that knowledge is power and nothing could be farther from the truth. This kind of power can be achieved by the simple act of just shutting up and listening. Keep an open mind, ears and observe. If you are one to always offer opinions and solutions to problems while not giving others room to give their opinions, then you are stopping a great opportunity for you to learn something new and exciting.

 Learning something new means having different mindsets in the room. It keeps meetings interesting places to be in. Take time to listen to people, regardless of their level of experience. Be it the CEO, receptionist or the intern, seek their opinions and insights and your cup of knowledge will overflow.

2.  Change of attitude

When you hold off on speaking during meetings you create an opportunity for the rest to voice what they understand. If you are one who chatters nonstop in meetings, people will always come to meetings and let you have the floor. They will see no need of voicing their ideas. Most of them will zone out, get bored and will leave the meeting with nothing.  

Speak and offer information in amount the listeners can resonate with and absorb. Be concise, straight to the point and say what is completely necessary. While speaking to your seniors try to speak less, to them quality matters more than quantity. Let others speak, it however doesn’t mean you should be an ant on the wall. Make sure that whatever you say is of value that you won’t leave everyone with a bad taste.

3.   You realise that you may have been a ‘one-man crusade’

If what you remember while reading this is that whenever you started talking in meeting everyone agreed or gave a heavy sigh, you need to start talking less in meetings or even stop talking at all. People will many a time differ with what you bring to the table and if they don’t then they were not really paying attention. This ‘one-man crusade’ is not interesting at all.

This is one thing you don’t want to happen in case of a problem. A problem has a tendency of keeping everyone on their toes. When a team comes together to offer solutions, the burden will be easy to carry and you will be part of a team that covers all the bases putting the whole company at ease. A problem shared is solved. Meetings where everyone participates, end up being positive and fun.

4.      Your ideas are made better
Remember when you had convenient but unproductive ideas?  It is because they were limited to always being yours. Sometimes ideas need to be built by other people. Call for a meeting, explain your idea, let others dig in and their insights will build you a stronger idea. A focus group is a great idea of getting to listen to other people and a prospect on how your ideas can be improved. After the discussion you will end up getting more and better ideas than what you first had in mind.

Creativity comes from the least known places and by shutting up, you will open a can full of it. You will therefore feel better moving forward with more information.

5. You gain a leadership tool
While people underestimate how listening is a virtue, it is a leadership tool. Apart from gaining knowledge, your focus is a sign of respect. After listening, let the information sink in, offer feedback by asking questions, avoid distractions and maintain eye contact at all times. Your bosses will believe and have confidence in you.

 But not for the women…

Studies show that women don’t speak up enough in meetings, and if they do, it is only confined to their area of expertise. This doesn’t do much for their career and infact has a negative impact on their career progression. It has also been noted that they tend to use little inflections that undermine what they are saying. These include:

1.  Apologising for nearly everything. It is something that many women unconsciously do. That will say,” I am sorry I didn’t hear what you said, could you repeat that?” or I am sorry I don’t understand, could you explain that? Cut down on the apologies and ask for what you want. Unless you have spilled a drink on someone, or bumped into them, you have nothing to apologise for.

2.    Using qualifiers before offering an opinion. These include words like: “I am no expert but….”  Or “Correct me if I am wrong but…” This tends to undermine you and your idea before you even state it.

3.   Stay away from, “does that make sense?” The phrase makes you seem like you lack confidence in your ability to be understood. If anyone is confused by what you said, let them ask a question about it.

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