Silence & Agreement


Hi, everybody. I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you. Here’s this week’s question.

“Dear Mike, I have heard you say that silence doesn’t equal agreement. Other than the obvious, just because somebody doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean they agree with you, what are other things I should be paying attention to, to deal with those that are not forthcoming with their opinions, especially when those opinions are important to a project?”

A couple things. First of all, observe behavior. If a person sits silently in a meeting, and then they go out and behave out of alignment with the decisions that were made at the meeting, you probably want to have a conversation with them. That’s the first thing to pay attention to. Behavior always reflects where a person’s, I don’t want to say loyalties are, but where a person is leaning. That’s the first thing. The second thing that you pay attention to is you pay attention to the comments that are made or the conversations that are had with this person outside of the meeting.

People will generally share their opinion, or they will infer their opinion, if they don’t bring it up publicly. I have developed a habit in my role when I’m in a meeting if I have not heard from a person, I will look at that person and say, “John or Jane, I’d like you to weigh in on this and share what your opinion is on this,” because I want to hear them, and then they’re on the record with it. I don’t always put people on the spot, but sometimes I do, particularly if I have somebody in a meeting that feels distracted to me or they’re not paying attention, I’ll just ask them, “Hey, what’s your opinion.”

Watch for behavior, listen for what the conversations are outside of the meeting about the project or the issue, and then when in the meeting if you want their opinion, ask them. Don’t say this, “Anybody have anything to add? Anybody have an opinion?” Because a lot of people just stare at you, unless they’re really out there like me. I’m going to go, “Well, here’s where I’m at,” unless it’s a ticking time bomb. I sit on boards, and I am in meetings often where people are quiet. Doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion, and I always ask. If they say, “No, I’m neutral on this, really. 100%,” then that’s that. Then, as a final straw, if you really need them to weigh in, tell them. Tell them before the meeting, “I need you to weigh in on this.”

Hopefully that’s helpful.

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