I was in a planning meeting to discuss things we can be doing for the upcoming cycles with the whole team. The PM leading the discussion encouraged us to talk about some ideas we have.

I ended up having a lot of opinions and while some people did chime in with their thoughts and I respected them, I noticed a few team members did not say much -- I am uncertain if it was because they simply did not have anything to add or if I was dominating the conversation.

What are some signs people are not giving room for others to talk and how people avoid it?

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    Are you the chair of the meeting or "just" a participant? – Philip Kendall Oct 14 '15 at 6:08
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    The PM leading the discussion encouraged us to talk Seems like the OP is a participant in the meeting. – Dawny33 Oct 14 '15 at 8:02
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    Sometimes people are in a meeting just because they've been told to be, and have no important information to add. Others are there purely for their own information gathering - eg I was in a meeting last week where I had no domain knowledge, so unless I had a question I was happy to sit and listen to those who did know what they were talking about. As long as people have time to speak and contribute, the chances are they simply have nothing to add. – Jon Story Oct 14 '15 at 9:16
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's asking about social behaviour and group dynamics and is only tangentially related to the workplace while also covering too broad a subject for practical answers. In your specific situation I would just advise you to ask the PM if you were being overbearing. – Lilienthal Oct 14 '15 at 9:49
  • @PhilipKendall yes what Dawny said was right -- I was merely a participant (one of the members of the team). – Kevin Xu Oct 15 '15 at 18:31
up vote 8 down vote accepted

How to check if it is happening?

What are some signs people are not giving room for others to talk and how people avoid it?

The easiest sign is that there are people at the meeting that were supposed to be there but have not contributed.

If someone invites 5 people specifically, but only 2 are contributing, then you need to consider:

  • Why were the other 3 invited?
  • What perspective do they have that the talkers are missing?
  • How can we get their opinions?
  • Who are the decision makers?

If the other people are only there to sit and listen you don't have a problem. If they are expected to contribute and are not, that's when you have a problem and it should be considered a a sign.

How to encourage others to speak up?

I noticed a few team members did not say much -- I am uncertain if it was because they simply did not have anything to add or if I was dominating the conversation.

Many people will NOT interrupt others. Introverts in particular do not do this, because it feels disrespectful. Extroverts often love the atmosphere of talking over each other.

I am a hardcore introvert who can fake being an extrovert and I still feel very uncomfortable interrupting others. I can do this only because I know that for most people who dominate discussion, they don't actually mind and interrupting is ok. But I still hate doing it myself.

When I facilitate meetings where people are not speaking much, I ask them by name, something like, "hey 8bit, do you have thoughts on this?" It's even better if you can ask multiple people at once, "hey 8bit/9bit/10bit, you guys have been quiet, what are you thinking?" to avoid singling them out. In my experience, introverts and shy people really appreciate this. Especially if (and it's likely to be the case) they have wanted to say something but not been able to get a word in.

Don't do this right away because introverts like to process information.

I frequently find that the extroverts (who dominate discussion) often somewhat nervously laugh or realize they've been preventing others from talking. They don't do this intentionally but get caught up in the discussion.

You want to keep this an "easy to say no or yes to" question. Don't make people uncomfortable by forcing them to say something.

Also, just a note, when you ask this question, give more than 3 milliseconds for them to respond. Too many extroverts assume that if someone doesn't say something in the first fraction of a second they don't have anything to say.

I am uncertain if it was because they simply did not have anything to add or if I was dominating the conversation.

and I respected them

No, you are not dominating the conversation unless and until you are giving time for them to speak up, and it seems like you indeed did.

What are some signs people are not giving room for others to talk and how people avoid it?

When your speech/talk is completely done, looking just at the person presiding over the meeting, then that is the sign that you are ignoring the others in the room.

So, look into the eyes of other people when you talk. And you'll understand when they have something to say so that you can let them speak up with a question like: Annie, what do you think of it, rather than getting interrupted embarrassingly.

And give a pause between multiple topics, and looking around the room(across the table) as if waiting for others' comments. If no one speaks up, then continue.

It is not your problem if they don't speak up between your pauses or give their views.

But, it is advisable to keep your opinions short and crisp, and can elaborate when the PM asks to.

Example:

A predictive model for LTV

and

A predictive model where we forecast LTV's for leveraging the company's growth .... blah ....

Both put the opinion forward, but the former would be good, and you can always elaborate when your PM asks to.

  • "It is not your problem if they don't speak up between pauses, or give their views." If the OP's goal is to satisfy the uncertainty of whether another person has something they would like to voice or how to appropriately solicit others' opinions, then it actually is the OP's problem. – Jim Oct 14 '15 at 18:17
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    Please read the answer again. I have already addressed that. – Dawny33 Oct 15 '15 at 3:56

I don't think you'll know for sure until you attend a few other meetings and see how people participate. One data point is not a trend.

You could have been hindering participation because they were allowed to sit back and just let you do all the talking. If someone really wants their contribution, they could have limited your time and encouraged others. I don't see this as your fault at all.

In the future, try to focus on the reactions of others while you're talking. It's not easy to do when you're really into what you're saying. They may look bored. Some may appear to want to try and speak, but feel cut-off by your next statement.

Suggest to the moderator to ask others for their input before ending the meeting. After a few comments, you can volunteer to hold-off and give others some time. You may find they have nothing to say.

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