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5 Ground Rules To Help You Not Get Talked Over In Meetings

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Suggest these ground rules to help strengthen the discussion—and get better outcomes for everyone in your meetings

Four people sitting around a table with notebooks and computers.
Photo by fauxels from Pexels.

Sometimes, I need more time to get my thoughts together before I can express them confidently. In Self-Promotion For Introverts, author Nancy Ancowitz explains that many introverted people struggle to work through their opinions on the spot and can benefit from some time to prepare. While some people love to think aloud, discussions that require immediate problem-solving often leave out people who don’t.

  • Giving people access to the presentation or readings beforehand
  • Allowing a few minutes of silence at the beginning of the meeting for everyone to think about the topic

Similarly, there’s nothing worse than preparing for a meeting only for one participant to derail the conversation completely. I once had a group meeting with another writer and a client who wanted writing services from both of us. We’d discussed the goal for the meeting in advance, so I prepared accordingly. Unfortunately, as soon as we got on the call, the other writer brought up an unrelated topic and took over the entire discussion.

While it may seem elementary, creating some rules about how many times someone can speak is an excellent way to ensure everyone gets a turn. Some people take over meetings without realizing that they’ve been the only one speaking for 30 minutes.

Since I sometimes need more time to think than others, moving quickly from topic to topic results in me losing the chance to share. Or, I’ll feel like I have some good ideas after everyone else has already moved on to something new. For this reason, I like to sometimes call for a follow-up moment.

The oldest discussion rule in the book is also the one most frequently broken. One person should talk at a time.

The Harvard Business Review has a great explanation for how to set ground rules effectively. The main tip is to make sure everyone feels included in and understands the expectations. Whether I’m in charge of the meeting or not, I like to say, “Would anyone mind if we set some ground rules for this meeting, so we all have the same expectations?” I’ve never received any pushback. In fact, most people say that they love the idea.

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