We’ve all be there. Arrived at a meeting ready to present, only to be asked to take notes by a senior member. Or when trying to make a point – John from sales can’t help but interrupt at any given opportunity. 

Whether its ageism, sexism or racism – the ism’s really come into their own in a meeting room. But why is that?

Instead of encouraging free thought and conversation flow, we often find ourselves fighting for space and to be heard. This can be down to colleagues inter-personal communication style, a lack of awareness or just plain rudeness.

According to Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand and You’re Wearing That

“Men speak to determine and achieve power and status. Women talk to determine and achieve connection.” 

It’s deemed as power play. Women want to discuss and build from a conversation – men want to win it.

In a study conducted by Don Zimmerman and Candace West, sociologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara – in a male/female group dynamic, there were 48 interruptions, 46 of which were instances of a man interrupting a woman. Instead of talking over one another and breaking the flow of creatively and progress, we think it’s important to highlight some housekeeping rules everyone should follow.

Below are some tips on how to run a meeting more inclusively:

  • Read the room and actively listen. Before you go to speak, ask yourself: Am I interrupting to get clarity or just to be heard? Can my point wait?
  • Create a safe space. Gone of the days where the big boss sits at the top of the table. Why not have a meeting in a breakout room, a nearby coffee shop, or a community space so there is no hierarchy.
  • Build-in alternate forms of communication. If members’ of your team aren’t confident speaking up in meetings or if someone needs extra support – create a chat function for the meeting or shared doc where members’ can share their ideas or queries. 
  • Adapt. If a member of your workforce is religious, pregnant or has a disability – don’t host the meeting at midday at the top of a building with no lift, and only serve sushi. This is an exaggerated example but you get the drift. Accommodate your workforce.
  • Have a host. Having a host of the meeting will allow you to form an agenda and stick to a timeframe, alongside holding accountability to anyone who does interrupt.

Now that we are in a more digital way of thinking in terms of Zoom meetings, Google Meets, Team catch up etc: the above tips still apply. Creating a safe space online can involve waiting 3 seconds after you think someone has finished to say your point. After all, a somewhat awkward 3-second silence is way better than constant interruptions.

Books 📚
You Just Don’t Understand – Deborah Tannen
You’re Wearing That? – Deborah Tannen

Videos 📹
How To Run Inclusive Meetings for an Inclusive Work Culture? – Youtube
How to get serious about diversity and inclusion in the workplace | Janet Stovall – Youtube
3 ways to be more inclusive | Aduke Onafowokan | TEDxBonnSquareSalon – Youtube

Articles 🖥
Gal Interrupted, Why Men Interrupt Women And How To Avert This In The Workplace – Forbes
How to counteract 3 types of bias and run inclusive meetings – Work Life
To Build an Inclusive Culture, Start with Inclusive Meetings – Havard Business Review

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