The Value of Quiet People
April 24, 2021
Two weeks ago I wrote about being stuck in a rut with meetings. In that blog, I discussed how to make meetings more engaging, productive, and equitable. Today, I am discussing the importance of paying attention to the quiet people in meetings. Those quiet people often have the most to offer – they just wait for the right minute to offer it.
I recently read an article on medium.com titled “Quiet People in Meetings Are Incredible.” I couldn’t agree more with that title. The author, Tim Denning, talks about how he learns the most in meetings from quiet people – not the loudest.
For those of you who attended our recent HR Conference, you probably remember Josh Best from Quicken Loans touching on this subject. He brought up the acronym W.A.I.T – Why Am I Talking? He challenged us to ask ourselves a simple question before speaking up in a meeting – What is one thing I don’t know that I probably should? This can change your frame of thinking from being anxious to share your opinion to instead sitting back and listening or asking questions to seek additional information.
I have regular meetings with my colleagues from across the country that run associations similar to ASE. We all hold the same title. There are a few people that are normally quiet…but when they speak, I am waiting on the edge of my seat because I know it will be insightful, relevant, and intelligent. I realize in a meeting with your supervisor, you are expected to share your opinion, to show you are engaged in the discussion, so I think you need to be conscious of that; however, I think it is what you say, not how often you speak that sets you apart from others in meetings.
The medium.com article offers several insights into the value of quiet people:
“The loudest person in the room is not the most senior, or necessarily the brightest spark.” – Sometimes the person talking the most is the person that actually knows the least. They are often trying to prove themselves. However, Dennings suggests that the brightest spark in the room actually says nothing at all. Instead, they are taking notes and absorbing what everyone else is saying. They are doers, not talkers. They are the ones who after the meeting will go back, look at their notes, and put ideas into action.
“Bright sparks know when to shut up.” – The quiet people do speak when called upon, or when necessary. But they know when to stop talking. There are benefits to remaining quiet in a meeting – by talking less, you will hear more. Quiet people know this and put it into action.
“Bright sparks know when to listen and learn.” – As Dennings wrote, “To shut up is to listen. To listen is to change your life.” When people speak outside of their realm, it can easily reveal what they don’t know. Instead, the smartest people will sit back and simply listen when thrown into a topic they don’t know much about it. When you listen, you learn.
“Praise quietness, not hot air and noise.” – Egos make people talk too much, and that talk typically accomplishes nothing. I love the way Dennings stated it, “Quiet people change the world because they hear things others don’t.”