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  • Writer's pictureEllen Gardner

Listening without guilt

A communications professional was sitting in a meeting recently and while she was actively engaged in what was being discussed, she chose not to say anything. She agreed with the comments being made by other people and didn’t feel the need to chime in.

As she left the meeting, one of her colleagues commented, “For a VP of communications, you don’t say much.” She smiled and said she was processing the information and had nothing concrete to add.

It’s unfortunate that she had to justify just listening to the conversation. In fact, many of the most vocal people in a meeting are adding a lot of noise but few insights. Meanwhile, the quiet ones are absorbing and processing. When you do hear from them, it’s going to be something interesting and worthwhile.

I used to feel the need to jump into the conversation in meetings to make sure people knew I was there and that I had rightfully ‘earned’ my spot at the table. When I relaxed into my natural listening mode, I learned a lot more and quickly saw it didn’t diminish my status within the group. Leaders might be tempted to control the floor in meetings but moving into pure listening mode will earn the respect of colleagues who realize you care more for their thoughts than the sound of your own voice. Listening will also put you two steps ahead in formulating solutions.

As the communicator astutely observed on the value of staying quiet, “Meetings are long enough.”

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