Five simple ways to STFU in meetings

If there’s one problem that plagues most business meetings it’s that a few participants are doing most of the talking. If you’re one of those people who tend to talk a lot, here are 5 tips to help you shut up and listen when you need to.

1: Put your hand over your mouth

You can put one hand over the lower part of your face and your mouth. To an outside observer you will look thoughtful and observant. In reality your holding your mouth forcibly shut. It’s a simple physical reminder to yourself to not speak right now.

2: Ask some great questions

People find you very intelligent and persuasive when you let them talk. For instance, the most successful sales meetings are the ones where the customer does almost all the talking. A great way to get them talking, and still feel that you’re contributing, is to ask great questions.

3: Keep track

Have a piece of paper in front of you and make a mark on it every time you speak. Notice how many marks you get up to during a meeting.

4: Notice how you feel when you’re quiet

In my case, I get real antsy when there’s something I’m itching to say. My body tenses up, I tend to hold my breath and I feel generally very uncomfortable. This pressure eventually forces me to speak up.

How about you – how do you feel when there’s something you really want to say?

5: Ask yourself a simple question

Before you speak, ask yourself this: “Is what I’m about to say something I need to say or something the other participants need to hear?” Those are often not the same.

The upshot

Remember: good meetings are not characterized by the amount of talking but by the amount of listening going on.

If you’re a habitual talker like me, I’m sure that you will find that learning to say less and listen more will be a huge boon. People will find you more sympathetic, they will respect you more and even though you may end up saying less, what you do say will be received more appreciatively and have much more of an impact.

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10 thoughts on “Five simple ways to STFU in meetings”

  1. Glad you like it Mike. And of course these tips apply in lots of situations – it’s just that meetings seem to bring out the talker even more in some people.

  2. Hi Alex,

    I LOLed when I read your post. I’m the exact opposite! I don’t speak too much, but I try to pipe up when I don’t understand something. I’m still new to “meetings.” (I’m a college student)

    I’m an intern for a start up company called Future Delivery and we just released a private beta for FD Career. I want to invite you:
    code: dorothylam

    FD Career is a website where you can research companies and contribute by adding your comments about companies. This is a very early private beta, so you’ll most likely encounter a lot of bugs.

    I believe your insight will be very valuable to the site and I’d love it if you tried it out and gave us any feedback!

    Thanks Alex!


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