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Interpersonal skills create better results in meetings.

In case they haven’t told you face to face, your colleagues have these common complaints about meetings you and they attend:
  • “People digress.  They talk all around an idea, and I often miss their point.”
  • “Some people don’t pay attention to where we are in the process. It’s like they’re ten minutes behind in the discussion we’re having.”
  • “You can’t get people to speak up in the meeting; then they go out in the hallway and whine about what was decided.”
  • “A few people dominate.  Others never open their mouths.”
  • “You can’t get people to agree and come to a decision.”

Don’t be the culprit.  Here are a few specific don’ts to keep you in their good graces:

Omit War Stories.

When you have an audience of admirers, don’t yield to the temptation to tell war stories, share inside jokes, and recount wonderful things you once did. Unless time is of no importance to the rest of the group, don’t.

Don’t Ask a Question Simply to Ask a Question.

Some team members become uncomfortable with silence. So when a colleague tosses out an idea, they feel compelled “to get the ball rolling” by asking a question. Don’t. If you really don’t have a legitimate question and don’t care about the issue one way or the other, don’t add to the problem by opening your mouth. Hours have been lost by people chasing down answers to questions that should never have been asked and that bear little or no relevance to the decision or problem.

Don’t Build Your Case—For or Against—on Secondhand Information.

When Helena says that Jack said that Lana thinks, stop right there. If the information is crucial to the decision, verify it. Make a phone call or postpone the discussion until the relayed information can be verified.

Don’t Sound Like a Broken Record.

Present your idea and support it. After a fair hearing, if the group nixes it, move on. Nothing irritates others more than having someone continue to bring up a pet proposal or peeve and whine, whine, whine.

Don’t Derail Others’ Proposals While They’re Still on Track.

Follow what’s going on before you propose something new. If you really want to upset a crowd, let a speaker propose an idea, with all the related facts and analysis, ask for discussion, and get just to the point of calling for a decision. . . and then interrupt with a proposal of your own. Instead, pay attention to the logical process and avoid bringing up out-of-order issues and ideas. After you get past the idea stage and into the proposing stage, let the first proposal work its way through the group discussion and be accepted or rejected before you toss out your alternative.

Don’t Invalidate Others’ Feelings.

Examples: “Kabrielle, I don’t know why you’re so punchy about that.” “Jennifer, there’s no reason to get so defensive.” “It’ll be okay, Javier; really, it will.” To say or imply that people don’t have a right to their feelings upsets them even more—at you.

Don’t Engage in a One-on-One Battle.

Avoid letting a discussion degenerate into dialogue with only one other person. Inevitably, others in the group become on-lookers and begin to take sides. Then the opposing ideas become an ego issue, and the discussion has a winner and loser. Bad for morale. When you realize that only you and one other person remain in the discussion, say something like: “Well, let’s open it up again. Charles, you said . . . , and Eugenia, you mentioned that . . .” The idea is to leave the impression that all have contributed to the exchange and that you are conceding to the group opinion.

Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 45 books, published in 26 countries and 20 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication.

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