Health and Fitness

It’s okay to be quiet in meetings

When the New York Occasions introduced {that a} man named Joe Kahn would be its subsequent government editor, I did what each second journalist I do know did the opposite week and scurried to learn up on him.

My favorite article, in New York journal, revealed inter alia that Kahn is a really rich wine connoisseur who speaks Mandarin and lives in a Manhattan house constructing as soon as stated to have housed Marlon Brando.

However there was one thing else. In accordance to the journal, “in news meetings, which are often a world-class exercise in ass-kissing, Kahn comments sparingly”.

Bingo! I believed, mentally including Kahn to an inventory of people that say exactly what ought to be stated by much more assembly members: little or no.

One of many many high quality issues about engaged on a day by day newspaper is the remorseless deadlines. They make it troublesome for would-be wafflers to indulge their instincts in meetings as a result of, typically talking, there merely isn’t sufficient time.

Alas, this isn’t the case elsewhere. Furthermore, analysis reveals that in a typical six-person assembly, greater than 60 per cent of the speaking is completed by simply two folks.

For these pressured to sit and watch the expertise can be painfully tedious. No marvel the sight of a profitable however quiet individual in a gathering is commonly deemed worthy of remark. Fortunately, Joe Kahn is way from alone.

Not lengthy after Joe Biden turned US president, the New York Occasions revealed a prolonged account of how he labored and who he relied on most in the White Home.

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One in every of his high political advisers was Mike Donilon, a longtime aide who has been described as Biden’s “conscience, alter ego and shared brain”.

In meetings, the Occasions reported, Donilon “tends to stay mostly silent until the very end of a discussion, at which point Mr Biden often embraces whatever point he has made”.


Donilon is under no circumstances the primary quiet however influential Washingtonian. Dick Cheney was usually known as essentially the most highly effective vice-president in US historical past when he served underneath George W Bush from 2001 to 2009.

There’s, after all, an excellent cause to discuss loads in meetings, particularly for these of us who lack the lofty title of vice-president or chief government. It could make you look extra leaderly

As one information report put it in 2004, Cheney was famend for his skill to maintain his ideas and emotions to himself. “White House insiders say he rarely speaks in meetings and shows little reaction to comments by others.”

Then there may be Sir Simon Stevens, the previous chief government of NHS England. Among the many many accolades showered on him when he stepped down final 12 months was one from a former boss, Jeremy Hunt, an ex-health secretary.

Hunt stated Stevens was a “formidable operator” who had the present of “being able to stay silent in meetings unless he has something important to say, a rare quality in Whitehall”.

There’s, after all, an excellent cause to discuss loads in meetings, particularly for these of us who lack the lofty title of vice-president or chief government. It could make you look extra leaderly.

The hyperlink between talking time and authority is so nicely established that some researchers name it the “babble hypothesis” of management.

The impact seems to happen no matter intelligence or character, in accordance to a research I used to be alerted to final week by Madeleine de Hauke, a marketing consultant who helps organisations maintain extra productive meetings.

She factors on the market are prices to letting gasbags dominate a gathering. Fostering innovation, for instance, requires variety of thought. But when meetings are dominated by a loud minority, “you can have a fantastically diverse workforce but you are not getting diversity of thought”.


That may be a helpful perception and it lends weight to an thought I discover interesting: silent meetings.

As a substitute of brainstorming verbally, members write down concepts which are put up on a board in a approach that doesn’t determine whose thought is whose, after which mentioned. The method is claimed to galvanise introverts and neutralise blowhards.

It wouldn’t work for every type of assembly, I do know, however in the meantime there may be an outdated saying that a whole lot of windy assembly attendees may like to bear in thoughts. Higher to stay silent and danger being thought a idiot than to converse and take away all doubt. – Copyright The Monetary Occasions Restricted 2022

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