David Jaxon found a good post on effective meetings and has an excerpt on his blog here:

I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  Too many times, in a one-on-one discussion or a team meeting, people do not listen to one another and incorporate the information and analysis into their own thinking; they are just waiting for their turn to speak.

A friend told of an interesting event that really drives home the point about the benefits to all of actually listening to one another.

Setting: Campus panel of students discussion on the Israeli/Palestine issue(s)

For the first 20 minutes, the aged professor and audience of students listened to both sides shout and rage against the other side in 3 – 5 minutes bursts.  There was little cohesive discussion, specific topics were bounced around in no particular order, and there was a lot of emotions and name calling.

The professor then interrupted and told each “team” that they needed to take notes on what the other side of the panel was saying.  The panels of students on each side were perplexed because they all felt like they “knew” the other side’s arguments.  But the professor persisted and the students on the panel all agreed to take notes on the other sides arguments each time someone spoke.

The next 20 minutes of the panel were much more subdued.  The “listening” side of the panel at any given time was busy taking notes.  There were occasional requests to repeat a statement which sometimes flustered the speaker because the speaker had not necessarily thought about what they were saying; they were just spewing off.  The tone of the arguments became more focused on facts and analysis than on emotion.

After 20 mins the professor interrupted again.  Now, using the notes they had taken (and by default the listening they had done), the two sides of the panel were given the topics that were brought up in the first 20 minutes of heated yelling and raging.

Rather than emotional yelling with no discernible improvement in understanding or proposed solutions, there was rational discussion.  There was respect between the two sides of the panel.  They had the ability to stay on topic until some level of agreement (resolved or unresolved) was reached.  And civility ruled.

The professor’s point to his entire section had been made.  Active listening is a purposeful decision by the listener and the speaker.  If you are not actively listening, you are wasting your time and the speaker’s time.  A good meeting involves discussion around a topic or topics.  If you have invited others to speak at a meeting, but are not able to incorporate their information into your analysis and decision-making process, then you have failed at “meeting”.




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