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Listening when people don’t talk

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in Admins,Office Management

Most teams have them: members who complete their assigned tasks well enough, but never have much to say during team meetings.

You know they have something to contribute, but you don’t know what they really think about team goals and decisions. How do you reach those silent workers? By practicing good active listening along with body language observation, you’ll see your silent workers are actually communicating a great deal. You can meet them halfway, and help compensate for their shyness or lack of communication skills.

Pay close attention to nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact.

Also, make note of context. Do your quiet workers really never participate? Or do they clam up when certain subjects are discussed, when certain people are holding the floor, or during certain types of discussions, such as back-and-forth debates? Note when your silent workers seem most comfortable, or when you sense strong feelings about the topic at hand. Then invite their input. A blanket “What do you think?” may work, but it may cause shy or awkward workers to freeze or flub an answer that they think is the one you want to hear. If so, simply ask if they agree or disagree, and then elaborate.

For example, if a team member’s body language says she disagrees with what she’s hearing, ask if that’s true. Then ask what she thinks of alternatives that you suggest, or if she can suggest her own alternative. Thank her for whatever contribution she offers, and build on it any way you can.

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