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Please stop talking

“Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”

If you have been watching Hemingway on PBS, or if you know his essay Hills Like White Elephants, you might recognize this quote. It’s a woman to a man.

I know there is a danger in categorical judgments but I’m going to make one because this is something that I have seen over and over again in my meetings. Men tend to talk more. Women tend to defer more.

I bet that if you tracked the data in the last 100 meetings that I have been in……looked at the proportion of men and women in those meetings and the proportion of time spent talking by each gender, you would find that a disproportional amount of the time is dominated by men.

If your goal in the meeting is to get your way — to get the whole group to affirm what you already know to be true, without even having to hear from anybody else — then interrupt others and dominate the airtime. That’s a good strategy for that goal. But if your goal is for the group to make a good decision with the best available information and the very best chances of implementation due to buy-in, then spend more time listening and less time talking. Make room for everyone.

Now if you’re a man you might be thinking, “Well, if a woman doesn’t speak up that’s her fault; it’s her responsibility.” I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s a shared responsibility. Your part is to yield space. Her part is to speak up.

If you are a man about to make a comment — you know exactly what you want to say and you’re about to jump in — I’m encouraging you to pause, look around the room, especially at the women in the room, and give a chance for one of those women to take your turn.

And I must add, there is something uneasy about asking my fellow men to give over space to women because it comes with a presumption that the space is defacto ours in the first place, to be conceded. A woman actually doesn’t need my permission or concession to speak. The space among us is not defacto mine to control.

12 thoughts on “Please stop talking

  1. Intriguing Craig! Thank you, for going out on a limb. My guess is many men think it is the women who are talking too much. It makes you pause, doesn’t it? One of your biggest fans ~ Joyce Bailey ☯️

    1. Thanks Joyce!
      Always love hearing from you.
      So interesting, that thing about “women talk too much.”
      I wonder if that’s a myth circulated by men in the fifties as a strategy to keep women in their place. I was absolutely raised with that notion – that women talk too much – without any credible basis, I’m pretty sure.

  2. Thank you so much for putting this out there! This is a rampant problem that’s still very much happening, sadly, across generations. And groups are the poorer for not proactively building in protocols that encourage women to participate.

    1. Ah yes. This is so great.
      We have posted about this on social media before and just did again.
      Thanks for raising it!

  3. It’s often called mansplaining. And women are guilty of encouraging it by praising men for their input while ignoring the brilliance of women. I think this example of patriarchy is evident more in the older generation. Of which I am one. At least I am hopeful that younger men and women are more aware.

    1. Right. Mansplaining.
      And I heard another one the other day. Let me give a “manser” rather than just a simple answer.

  4. Very good point. We are surrounded by the believe that when men speak up, they are being accretive and when women do the same thing, they are labeled as aggressive. I think this is true both in business situations and in less formal social settings.

  5. Thank you for addressing this. SO true and so seldom recognized publicly!
    It would be helpful to explore this further and beyond gender. I have been in meetings with a native American who didn’t speak up. When I encouraged her to participate she told me that her culture required her to let the elders speak first.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anne. And for mentioning about native culture. So nice to hear from you.

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