As a corporate executive by day and an entrepreneur by night, I've been to my fair share of meetings over the last decade or so. Meetings can be strange experiences. The meeting can quickly spiral out of control. Leaders wearing pinstripe suits or whose hair is turning gray by the day are prone to losing the plot. They use words to flex their ego. To put it another way, they talk a lot. The duel continues as the meeting progresses. Words are thrown around by leaders. Those looking for a new job do the same thing.
Being well-dressed is essential. You use spreadsheets to insert phrases into customers' mouths that they never said to ensure you're seen as the most knowledgeable or in touch with the customer. It's all a bunch of nonsense. The meeting is a waste of time. There is no conclusion.
But it's not all bad. Meetings have taught me a valuable lesson: pay attention to the quiet people.
There are these unnoticed people who attend meetings. They remain silent. You can go to ten meetings in a row and never hear them say anything. Their words are a privilege reserved for the royal family. You're dying to hear what they'd say. They take on the role of a fly on the wall. With each meeting, they become smarter by saying nothing at all.
Instead of becoming a beast, they observe the loud beasts.
I used to be quite obnoxious in meetings. These quiet people swayed my opinion. In most meetings, I now try to sit quietly and not say anything. Although I am still a long way from mastering this skill, it has already taught me so much.
The loudest person in the room is not always the most senior or the brightest spark.
People are influenced by their job titles to do stupid things. One of those misdemeanors is talking excessively. You can have a title today and then lose it the next day. People who do not listen are what wreak havoc on business. They believe they understand the market, but in reality, they don't.
Nothing is said by the brightest spark in the room. They're there taking notes and watching what's going on. They observe the ego clash and see no reason to intervene. When the meeting concludes, they return to their desks to assist in the completion of the action plan. They are a doer rather than a talker.
The person who speaks the loudest and most in the meeting is not the most intelligent. They are drowning out the solutions of those who are actually doing the work. It is acceptable to sit in silence. It does not make you a loser; rather, it makes you wise.
Bright sparks know when to be quiet.
Of course, there will be times when you will be asked to speak on a particular subject. You are unable to express your displeasure or use hand signals. The goal is to make your point in as few words as possible. Then, once you've said everything you need to say in the shortest amount of time possible, know when to stop talking.
It takes skill to know when not to speak.
You can hear the unspoken people if you learn to shut up at the right times. What is not said can also be heard.
Bright sparks understand when to listen and when to learn.
Shutting up is the same as listening.
Listening is a life-changing experience.
Why? Listening allows you to learn. I listened my way to mastery when I was working a job and was way out of my depth managing a Tech company. I learned what the customer did and how my employer's business worked by sitting in meeting after meeting and saying nothing. Nobody in those meetings ever found out I didn't know.
People assume you know what you're doing when you listen. And guess what else? If you pay attention, you'll understand what you're doing.
I remember hearing about a guy (I forget his name) who listened his way into meetings. He ascended to meetings with Google's two founders by mastering the art of listening.
All he did was sit there, shut up, and offer to take notes for the meeting. Nobody ever questioned him. What he learned in those meetings completely transformed his life. He advanced much faster in his career because he was ahead of the knowledge curve as a result of the meetings he was able to attend.
If you pay attention, you'll learn things that no prestigious university could ever teach you. You could argue that this man's education from Google's two founders was superior to his university degree — all through listening.
Instead of hot air and noise, praise quietness.
My goal in meetings is to be the quietest person in the room. Meetings are filled with hot air and noise that accomplishes nothing. Your desire to be heard in meetings may be impeding your ability to learn. Your ego causes you to over-communicate. You'll say less in meetings if you learn to take yourself lightly and downplay your own importance.
The person who is the loudest in the room is the dumbest because he or she does not know or have the discipline to shut up. It's heartbreaking. Don't ruin your life by talking too much in meetings.
Quiet people make a difference in the world because they hear things that others do not.
In meetings, fall in love with the quiet people.
Examine those lovely, quiet creatures.
You, too, can be a quiet person if you so desire — but first you must be moved to silence by the magic of quiet people.
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