Edgeways – getting into a conversation
“It is better remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt” Mark Twain
Do you ever find team meetings or situations spiralling out of control as others hog the discussion?
It is often best to allow the rants and conversation spume to bubble up, flow-out and pass before sagely delivering your message, but in such extreme situations, where standards are low, you may need some additional techniques to steer and guide the room.
Here are tips on ways to get into a busy conversation that seems to offer no gaps! Good results here are situation and context dependent.
Important to note are three foundations of group communication which correlate with the quality of discussion:
1. Connection – How well do participants know and understand each other (and themselves!)
2. Collaboration – What is the attitude and the intent of the individuals and group? To create together? To explore options? To be heard? To prove/disprove?
3. Trust – To what extent do the individuals trust each other, the group and the forum?
Bearing the above in mind, experiment with 3 or 4 of the following tips to add them to your dialoguing strategy:
Have a specific purpose. Whether you are jumping into other people's conversation or you're seeking to halt someone's monologue, it's essential that you have a reason for doing it and the ability to relay that to the person talking. State the purpose as briefly as possible.
Add or append to the last point as your way in, then moved naturally to your extended point. “I need to add something here…”, “That reminds me…”
Assert cleanly (Say what you mean, just don’t say it mean!) “Could I jump in…”, “Do you mind if I come in here?”
It's best to wait until the person speaking reaches an obvious pause before speaking up. Over-talking does not help connection!
Remember to add or append to the last point as your way in. Use their words or phrase as part of your linked interruption. The last talker will notice you were listening.
Post Script professionalism – be the quality addendum! “Before we move on to the next point, may I add…?”
Be as polite as possible. Always speak calmly and start the conversation with a polite introduction to your interruption. You might say, "Excuse me," "I need to say something here," "Do you mind if I interject?" "I have an idea that relates to what you just said," "I'd like to add something to that,"
Thank the others for allowing you to interrupt. After you say what's on your mind, show your gratitude to the others for allowing you to speak. (this raises awareness of communication standards and you are setting the tone)
Address and connect with the last speaker, and then with room or group, it raises the potential relevance of your point from purely personal, it positions it for the greater good. One way of doing this is using the other person’s name (e.g. “James, that’s a great idea!”)
Suggest - Offering and inviting suggestions is a polite way to wrap up a conversation or a point of thought, or allow for other points to be explored.
Use clarification, acting on behalf of the group, (if you are unsure of a point, it is highly likely others are feeling similarly), “Could you clarify that? For us”, “Sorry, could you explain that a little more?”
Share your opinion “I agree…/I disagree…/I’m not sure about that/That’s great! /That’s interesting!” (Be mindful that your tone matches your intention here. The way you intonate can be seen as a genuine feeling of appreciation, or instead as a sarcastic comment that is received as the opposite!).
Be the conversation leader, officially or unofficially. Lead the conversation, involve others, be the chair (sensitively if there actually is a formal chair). “Could we pause for a moment here…”, “You make an interesting point there, I wonder what we all think of that”
Remember, agreement is always the best stepping stone to developing and strengthening connection – find something on which you agree if possible- and make it personal, it always works best if you have strong connections and collaboration within the group.
Good luck and keep it simple.