Q: I read with interest your recent guest post on about calling on people as a way to encourage engagement. I am someone who doesn’t usually speak up in meetings. Is it OK if I don’t? —Eleni


The short answer is Yes, Eleni, it’s OK if you don’t speak. Not everyone has to speak in every meeting or as often as others. Yet you are the only person in the meeting with your experience, expertise, interests, concerns, and point of view. If you don’t share your thinking, the group misses out.

I’ve always loved the story about three kinds of people—the ones who make things happen, the ones who watch things happen, and the ones who wonder what happened. Being on the sidelines in life is interesting, but other than when supporting our kids at their soccer games, it doesn’t add much value. Far better to choose to participate in a way that allows you to contribute.

You do want to be thoughtful and responsible for how you contribute to the conversation. Still, if you don’t usually speak up in meetings, you owe it to yourself—and the group—to consider these questions:

  • Do I have ideas I am not contributing?
  • Do I have insights or thoughts about improving the group process that would be useful if expressed?
  • Are there times when I am not aligned with where the group ends up in a conversation, yet I am not expressing my perspective?
  • Do others in the group have a sense that I’m actively participating?
  • If you are naturally quiet, think about the topic ahead of time and speak early. Or you might help summarize the conversation or ask the question that will take the conversation forward. Be willing to say what needs to be said. Set a high bar for yourself.

Try This:

  • Listen for opportunities to contribute to the conversation.
  • Notice when you have an idea to share but don’t speak.

“Ask your questions, because then you may elicit answers that someone else desperately needs. Discuss your doubts, because in doing so you may allow others to share theirs.”
—Jaida n’ha Sandra, Salons: The Joy of Conversation