I am extroverted, assertive, and often first to speak up in a group conversation. I get excited to brainstorm, toss around ideas, think through options and alternatives, and play devil’s advocate. These qualities often produce thoughtful conversation but can also make me that annoying person – too quick to speak, dominating the conversation, and taking the words out of other peoples’ mouths. I recently participated in a team dynamics workshop and our coach presented a decision tree that helps me be intentional in group conversations:
- Does it need to be said?
- Does it need to be said right now?
- Does it need to be said right now by me?
Does it need to be said?
Not everything that pops into our heads needs to be said aloud. If your thought will contribute to the current conversation, point out a new perspective, or highlight new information, it may be the right idea to share. When you want to share something, pay attention to whether you’re talking to fill space and hear yourself speak, or if you’re adding meaningfully to the conversation.
Does it need to be said right now?
Perhaps an idea or concern is important to share, but now is not the right time. Based on the current conversation and present company, is your point critical? Perhaps you can share the idea “offline” or as a follow-up to the current conversation. Perhaps it would be better to raise your idea/concern to someone specific rather than those involved in the current conversation. Consider whether your point is meaningful right now or not.
Does it need to be said right now by me?
Your point may be important and relevant; now consider if it is something you should voice or if someone else may be better to share the idea/concern. It is easy to assume we are the only ones thinking our particular thoughts, but it’s likely someone else in the room is thinking the same thing. Is this an opportunity to give someone else the floor or an opportunity to speak up? If someone else in the conversation has more context than you, they may be better equipped to speak to a specific topic. You may be the best person to voice an idea or concern, but it’s worth a pause to consider.
Especially if you are in a position of power in a conversation, pause to consider if something needs to be said, said right now, and said by you.
To all you fellow loud-mouths out there, I hope this decision tree is helpful. Group conversation is a trigger for me, and an opportunity to use this decision tree. If you are in the opposite camp and have a hard time speaking up and voicing your opinions, this decision tree can help you too – you have good ideas and may be just the right person to share them (right now!).