Don’t Clam Up at Meetings


“I really wanted to say something, but I was afraid of being wrong,” said Laurie (not her real name), a client I’ve been working with on her professional interpersonal communication skills.

Laurie had been at a meeting and had noticed that some numbers on a document didn’t quite make sense, so instead of speaking up, she quietly pointed out the discrepancy to a colleague sitting next to her.  He addressed the group, “I was looking at the numbers and noticed that the highs and lows don’t quite make sense.”  He didn’t mention that Laurie had pointed it out to him. He got the kudos for bringing it up.

Has that ever happened to you?  Has fear ever kept you from pointing out something?

If you are a woman, research indicates that you are 25% less likely to speak up at a meeting.  If you don’t speak up, you are less likely to be seen as a leader, and what’s worse, what you didn’t say may become a critical issue.

Many people don’t speak up because they are concerned that either they will be wrong or they will hurt someone’s feelings if they speak up.

There is an approach that can elegantly sidestep those challenges, yet still address the issue.

I call it the “help me understand” approach:

1.  Make an observation of the facts as you see them.

2.  Use “help me understand” or some variation (“This doesn’t quite make sense to me.  Can you explain it?”)

This non-judgmental approach can help both you and the other party “save face” and allows you to address an issue that could become a critical issue if ignored.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

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