If you’re like me and many other people in the world, you were not born with the ability to talk in groups. You might be kind of quiet or shy. You might think that you don’t have anything important to add to a discussion. The thought of talking might make you a bit nervous. Or, you might not know how to interject in a lively fast-paced discussion.
In fact, you might have been trained to *not* talk in groups. You might have been trained to not say things unless you know they are 100% correct and validated with a rigorous background check. You might have been trained to not say something unless it makes a significant contribution over prior knowledge. You might have been implicitly trained in school into thinking that people who talk a lot in groups (class) are annoying. Your culture might speak against talking too much. As a result, you might even be at the point where you have decided that talking in groups is not your talent and not your style.
WARNING: Taking the approach of not talking in groups can be a career-limiting move. For career growth, it is important to be able to talk in groups to let your opinions be known and to influence discussions and decisions. It’s also important to let people know who you are, what you’re interested in, what you know, what you need, what you’re good at, and what they can come to you for.
So, here are my Top 10 tips for how to talk in groups for quiet people.
- Say it, even if it’s incremental. You don’t have to wait until you have a monumental contribution to the conversation. If you are quiet, you will probably have a tendency to discount the importance of your own ideas and not say anything. You should remember that your insights are just as valuable as those of talkative people.
- Say it, even if it’s obvious. There are times when it is useful to say things that are obvious to you and/or obvious to the group. One reason is because some things that are obvious to you are not always obvious to others- you’d be surprised at how often this is true. Also, saying obvious things plays the important role of setting the ground truth in the discussion. It also gives people the chance to agree or disagree, and if they agree it can be used as a baseboard of common understanding.
- Say things to let people know your interests and passions. If you find the conversation or topic interesting, they should know since there may be follow on actions or opportunities that result. If you register someone’s interest in a topic, then you will know to contact them in the future when something comes up.
- Say things to let people know what areas you are knowledgeable in. It’s important for you to let other people know what areas you have expertise in and what areas they can call on you for. Your knowledge is one of your biggest assets in the working world.
- Say things to let people know where you stand on things. Sometimes it is useful to let people know what you agree and disagree with. Note that staying quiet on something that you disagree with can imply that you agree with it.
- Say things that have already been said. Sometimes it is useful to repeat something that was already said. Don’t worry, the repetition is not a waste of time. Rather, it has the purpose of sending a signal of agreement which in turn reinforces the point in the group discussion.
- Say things to move the discussion towards topics that are more interesting and useful to you and the group. We’ve all been in group discussions that have wandered away from the original purpose. Chances are that if you think the discussion should be changed in a certain way, then other people do too.
- Say things to help support other people’s points. It helps establish the ground truth in the discussion… and the other person will appreciate it.
- Create a little space for yourself in a discussion with an overly talkative talker by saying “I have a story”. Even if someone makes a point that interrupts the story, then get back to the story.
- Help another quiet person by giving them an avenue to talk. For example, you can say “Joe had some experience with xxxx. Joe, what do you think about this?”
- Bonus tip: Relax and have fun! You can make it a game to try to say things that positively influence the direction of a discussion. You can practice with every group discussion you are in, whether the group has 3, 30, or even 300 people.
- Ask clarifying questions. If you’re confused, you’re probably not alone. Also, asking clarifying questions helps encourage further discussion.
- Say it, even if there are senior people around. You might have grown up in a culture that has taught you to not speak when there are elders or more senior-level people around. Well, times have changed and it’s important to speak up. Senior-level people are always on the lookout for good leaders to come up with new ideas and carry them forward, so they want to hear from junior-level people. By talking, you have a chance to make it clear that you are one of those leaders! And, you can still be respectful when you talk, which will keep you aligned with your culture.
I plan to refine this list over time, so I’d love to hear you feedback.
Which tips are meaningful to you? Which tips are not? (Reminder: Learing is personal.)
Which tips do you disagree with?
Which are your most and least favorite tips?
Do you have a tip to add to the list?
Which tip should I remove to make room for a new one?
Tags: top 10 tips, how to talk, group discussions, talking tips, quiet, nervous, career advice, HP
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