|Dear Meeting Guru,
"What is an effective, yet sensitive
way to deal with those who continually cary on side converstaions
that disrupt the meeting for everyone?"
A participant who is continuously chatting with their neighbor can be extremely
disruptive to the entire group. You need to step in and deal with this as soon
as possible, otherwise your entire meeting can disintegrate. The quickest and
most effective way to deal with someone who is involved in a side conversation
is to openly acknowledge their behavior. Ask if they have anything to share
with the group. If they donít, ask them to save their discussion to the end
of the meeting. If they do, tell them that you appreciate their comments, but
next time, could they wait until the previous person has finished speaking before
speaking. Most people only need to be challenged once, and will be sufficiently
embarrassed to change their behavior.
If you would prefer to avoid any sort of conflict, you can
drop a subtle hint. If someone is being particularly disruptive,
ask them a direct question. This should pull their focus back
to the matter at hand. Try something like, "John, whatís
your opinion of Bettyís last point?" People hate being
caught out without an appropriate comment so this may scare
them into listening next time!
If neither of these tips work, you may have to speak with the offender outside
the meeting. Pull them aside and explain that youíre finding their whispering
distracting. Ask if thereís any way they could keep their conversations for
outside of the meeting room.
I hope you have some success
with one of these strategies. Itís important that you donít let one personís
behavior affect the success of the entire meeting. The wise philosopher Confucius
once said, "Clever words, a pretentious face and too-perfect courtesy:
Tso Ch'iu Ming was ashamed of them. I am also ashamed of them. Concealing one's
resentments and acting friendly to people: Tso Ch'iu Ming was ashamed to act
this way and so am I." In other words, while it can be difficult to confront
a colleague, donít be afraid to address the problem openly. It will improve
your overall working environment if you do.
Until next time
may good meeting karma always be with you.