How to stand out in your next meeting
| March 19, 2014
I've been thinking a lot about communication lately. Communication isn't just what we say. It’s how we say something — our tone of voice and our nonverbal cues, including facial expressions and body language. Sometimes our nonverbal cues can betray our intended message.
One example that sticks out to me involves our beloved cellphones. Let's face it; we're addicted to those things. Don't believe me? If you've ever experienced that moment of panic when you couldn't locate your phone, you're addicted.
I’m right there with you, so I get it. Cellphones are great, and they're intended to facilitate better and faster communication, but sometimes we misuse the tool.
We've all been in meetings where most of the participants are looking down at their phones instead of at each other. You're trying to make a serious point or express a new idea and you know people aren't listening (at least not well).
This doesn't just happen in a team-meeting situation, it also occurs one-on-one. You're talking and hear a "beep-beep," and your colleague picks up his phone and starts replying to a text message.
What does that communicate to you in that moment? That your team or the person you're meeting with truly cares about what you're saying? That they're fully invested in their relationship with those in the room?
Of course not. Eye contact, taking notes and nodding affirmatively communicates those things; not staring down at a screen the second a beep sounds off.
If you want to stand out at your next meeting, put your phone away and truly listen. Look people in the eye and ask thoughtful questions. If you're leading the meeting, ask everyone to put away their phones as well (or better yet, leave them at their desks).
You’ll shock a few people, and they'll feel like it's unreasonable. My reaction? Can the rest of the world get along without you for the next hour? If so, put away the phone. There are exceptions of course, such as the husband whose wife is about to have their baby any moment, but not many.
The point is to communicate respect and consideration for the people right in front of us — to value them and their time enough to leave a text unanswered for 30 minutes. I'm just as attached to my phone, but I'm making it a point to give my full attention to the people in the room and catching up with messages later.
I hope that communicates to my family, friends and clients how important they are to me and how much I want to hear what they have to say. Give it a shot and see who notices. You just might start a trend and will have to find a new way to stand out once this catches on.
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