Meeting over-achievers: How to engage others in the conversation

Suggestions on how to engage others when well-intentioned dominate conversations during meetings.

As members of organizations, individuals attend many meetings with many various personalities.  Michigan 4-H Youth Development engages youth in 4-H club meetings where youth begin to practice the necessary skills needed to run a meeting effectively.  Many counties also utilize 4-H advisory groups that engage youth and adults in partnership to make decisions and guide the work of the county 4-H program.  Because meetings are comprised of many people, they are also comprised of many personalities; some of which can present challenges to accomplishing goals.  This is the fourth and final installment in a series of articles that examines challenging behaviors and the best ways to address those behaviors in meetings.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Bulletin 314D, Effective Control of Meetings, identifies 11 different types of personalities and how they affect meetings. As the fourth and final article in the series, the following personalities in meetings: The overly talkative, not understandable, and quick to help, will be addressed.

Overly talkative individuals are often extremely enthusiastic and exceptionally knowledgeable, but can also come across as a show-off, chatty or conceited.  These are typically people that are confident in the subject matter being discussed, but their tendency to dominate the conversation can cause others to draw back and not participate.  In order to engage others in the conversation, say something like, “That’s an interesting point, let’s see what others think about it.”

Individuals who are not understandable are people who often have good ideas but not as good communication skills.  They may lack the ability to put their thoughts in an understandable order causing persons in the group to lose patience trying to follow their thought process.  When this starts to happen, it is appropriate to offer to rephrase the persons thoughts in a way others might be able to understand.  Avoid saying, “what you mean is…”, and try something like, “allow me to repeat that.”

Finally, quick to help individuals can seem like blessings to groups.  However, these people may also have a tendency to over-commit, not allowing adequate time for tasks or preventing others from volunteering.  This behavior can leave other group members feeling like their time is not needed or valued.  When opportunities arise for individuals to volunteer, attempt to make eye contact with or encourage people who might hesitate to volunteer first.  When the quick to help individual does attempt to take on multiple tasks, thank them for their service and stress the importance of getting others involved. Finally, consider developing a task list that explains the multiple responsibilities in a group and encourage or require each member of the group to take on at least one task.

In all of these cases, most people are well-intentioned, but their communication style may distract a group from accomplishing their goals efficiently.  Group facilitators must be careful to thank members for their input, recognize the value they add to the conversation and gently suggest alternatives that bring others into the conversation. 

Please refer to the remaining articles in this series for more examples of personalities in meetings.

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