When confused at a meeting, butt in

You’re sitting in a meeting when you suddenly realize you don’t understand what everyone is discussing. It happens. It’s easy to tune out for a moment and lose the thread of a conversation, or to be introduced to new subject matter in a meeting.

Speaking up in meetings to ask for clarification can be intimidating. Despite that feeling of discomfort, though, it’s best to summon the courage, especially if you’re the one taking formal minutes or notes.

Having a few useful phrases in hand can give you the confidence you need, says Jodi Glickman Brown, founder of communication consulting firm Great on the Job. She offers a few examples in a Harvard Business Review blog post:

√ “Forgive me if I’m behind the 8-ball here, but I’m a little confused about …”

√ “Max, I believe this is what you said … Is that correct?”

Admin Pro D

√ “I’m not entirely sure I’m following you. Could you please recap what you just mentioned regarding …”

√ “I’m sure I’m supposed to know this already, but …”

√ “I apologize if this is totally obvious to everyone here, but what does XYZ stand for?”

Joan Burge tells Administrative Professional Today that if you’re taking formal minutes or notes on behalf of the group, “Feel confident about the role you play, because it will impact what is happening after the meeting. It just takes courage to speak up in that meeting. It’s your tone of voice and your volume that convey confidence.”

Make it clear that you need clarification for the notes. Say:

√ “I’d like to capture the correct wording for our meeting notes, so would you mind spelling out the acronym?”

√ Or, “Excuse me, Mr. Rule, can you repeat that information so I can make sure I have captured it accurately in my notes?”

Burge says, “If you cannot get a word in edgewise, then write down what you thought you heard, and then afterward go to that person and ask about it.”

Speaking up is far less intimidating than you may think, says Brown.