Getting Ideas into the Discussion

It seems that many discussions, either at business meetings or in the classroom, are dominated by a few people. Their thoughts and ideas are not any better, but the others have a difficult time getting in. As a result, the discussion lacks the full range of available information. The quiet ones are very aware of the fact that they have relevant points, often different than those on the table, but the conversation goes round and round without them. As time passes, the threshold for entry appears to become higher. Contributions become more difficult to make. Often, people find themselves holding on to an idea until the moment is appropriate. Then the topic shifts, the point is obsolete, and the process begins again. The longer the discussion goes, the more unpleasant and frustrating it becomes.

It would be helpful if either there was a facilitator to engage everyone or that the participants would make space for each other, but usually these aids are not available. People have to make their own space and then use it. However, there are three tips from a college teacher that people can use to lower the entry barrier for themselves:

Get in early.

Get in cheap.

Do a little advance preparation.

Get in early.

Make a comment early in the discussion. That gets the ball rolling. The laws of physics are very clear about this: It is far easier to keep a ball in rolling than it is to get it started. Similarly, it is easier to comment a second or third time than the first. The early part of the discussion is often perfunctory, so it is a good time to make the first entry. Take advantage of the lower barrier.

Get in cheap.

The quiet ones often have a higher quality standard for their contributions than the others. That type of standard becomes restrictive. It is more important to get in and be a participant than to lay back and hope to contribute the winning approach or a unique point in a single contribution. That home run scenario is the stuff of daydreams and rarely happens at a meeting. A better strategy is to first get in at any level and then allow the quality of the ideas to surface.

Do a little advance preparation.

Have a few questions or points ready from the assigned reading or other background. Write them down and take them into the meeting. These points can be a grounding reference to make a contribution to get the ball rolling. This approach is particularly helpful for those who arrive at these discussions and find their minds go blank and they literally “have nothing to say”.

Ideas can only be used if they are on the table and evaluated.
These approaches can help all be full participants.

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3 Responses to Getting Ideas into the Discussion

  1. Florian says:

    Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

  2. Spencer_hh says:

    Li heo!
    Check this out!
    *

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