Ever had the experience of sitting in a meeting and someone won’t let you talk?

If you haven’t, you just might the person not letting others talk!

There are all sorts of annoying meeting behaviors that derail meetings (Advocator, Attacker, Blocker), but this week we address the Dominator behavior. Dominators try to control meetings and interrupt and talk over others. If you’ve read any of my previous posts on this topic, you know that all saboteur behaviors stem from one of two things: fear or self-interest. Regardless, it can kill psychological safety if no one does anything about it.  Here are three different ways to do something about it.

  1. Use a timer. Since I’m recommending cultivating a psychologically safe environment (because it produces the best input and ideas), a timer shouldn’t feel like a personal attack. Nor should it feel like meeting attendees are being treated like kindergarteners. Instead, explain the reason for the timer. “To keep our meeting on schedule, we will be limiting discussion and comments using this timer.” “You’ve been invited to the meeting because your insight and expertise is needed. We’ll be using a timer to ensure we have time to hear from each of you.” “Out of respect for everyone’s time and ideas, we are asking comments to be limited to ____ seconds/minutes. We will use a timer to keep things on track.”
  2. Gather input silently. Having an open or free-for-all discussion isn’t the only way to gather input. Try Brainwriting. Brainwriting is a great idea generation technique where each person writes ideas down for a prescribed amount of time and then passes their ideas to the next person to build on. This process is repeated until the meeting facilitator sees that ideas are slowing down. I recommend using a grid of 9-12 squares for 9-12 ideas – one idea per square.
  3. Respectfully interrupt and ask others directly for input. If the above ways don’t help curb the Dominator behavior, it’s time to be direct. You might say something like, “Excuse me. I’d like to hear from [insert name of another person].” “Please wrap up your thoughts in the next 30 seconds so we can hear from [insert name of another person].” “Thank you for your ideas. I’d like to open it up to others now for their input.” “Please allow [insert name] to finish first.”

Dominator behavior can be intimidating because it is often aggressive. Don’t shy away. They need your help, and everyone else in the meeting will surely appreciate it if you do something about it.

Struggling with people taking over in meetings? I can help. Just reach out.