By Tyler Jefford

On June 21st, 2023


I've been in a lot of frustrating meetings during my career, and many of them have one major problem in common: the participants are talking, not listening.

I break this down into two distinct issues. The first is when a person is actively not paying attention, distracted by Slack, email, or reading something else. This wastes time because someone in the meeting may have to go back over what has already been covered.

My rule on this is: if you are invited to a meeting, you are essential to be present and actively participate. There should be no reason to invite people who are not needed to participate. A write-up and summary should suffice for those not in attendance.

The second group is people who are paying attention but not hearing what is said. This may be due to the subject being something they oppose, something technical and difficult to understand, or something more subtle. Everyone has been in a meeting where you are listening to someone with a monotone voice and just kind of trail off.

My challenge for this is: when you are in a meeting and asked a question, act like you are on stage and need to repeat the question for the audience to hear. This provides context between the last person's thought and yours. It shows that you are listening and understand the thought or question enough to say it back more succinctly, and it has the potential to build stronger relationships with your peers. This technique also works in everyday relationships, by the way.

So put down the distractions and listen. Repeat the subject and provide your input. Avoid talking over one another, especially on a video call, as it is rude and annoying for everyone else.