Nix the Blurt: A New Year's Resolution

Most business meetings suck. There, I said it. The truth hurts because it's so painfully obvious. The culprits include lack of agenda, poor facilitation, missing action items, wrong people in attendance and the presence of gasbags who display the properties of halon by removing all oxygen from the room - toxically.

Here's one thing each of us can do to make meetings more effective and efficient. Let's be more intentional about staying focused on the subjects being discussed and the points actually being made. In this sense, we all need to do a better job building iteratively on - or respectfully challenging - specific points made in the current conversational stream. This means not simply blurting out the next thing on our mind no matter how unrelated it is to what people just said.  

It's easy to spot folks actively developing their own unrelated point. They're clearly not listening. They're clearly not present to process what a colleague is saying and connect it to the next meaningful point. Indeed, there's an infinite array of political, psychological, neurological and physiological manifestations that erode dialogue and produce disjointed conversations. 

Best practice here often starts and finishes by managing our own impulse control - or the lack of it. Yes, it means being emotionally intelligent enough to nix the blurt. Do you really need to say that? Do you really need to say it right now? Can you save it for later? Or in the words of the great New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff, "How about never - is never good for you?"

Each of us needs to be fully present in the immediate discussion. That means really listening to what people are saying and connecting to what others have said in a meaningful conversational flow. It most certainly means not trampling a colleague's point with some disassociated nonsense you've been formulating while failing to hear what's being discussed. It means practicing body language that is receptive to ideas. Yes, people notice when your body language projects indifference or worse. Men, it means not interrupting women in mid-sentence. Women, it means not letting men engage in this time-honored practice I call "politus interruptus." 

For each of us, improving the quality of meetings means looking in the mirror and asking how we can help - and help others - create more productive, connected conversation that is right in the moment. It's not always the boss's fault, you know.

Photo courtesy of Behaviorally Yours