I’m coming at this in the business context where someone speaking can expect to be listened to and receive a response from the person she’s addressing.

In a social situation, we can just speak louder and in reality, it’s the person who can create a social feel in a business context who get’s an advantage. For example, whoever starts off a conversation on the way into the meeting is more likely to move seamlessly from chat to ‘I thought we could start with …. if that’s ok.’

Is it too aggressive? It depends a lot on body language, voice tone and how quickly you can get your conditioning out before handing the conversation over to your counterparts.

There’s a tricky question about interruptions during set-piece occasions. Are they within the unwritten bounds of behaviour or just bad manners and does it matter? I say it’s all about presentation…if you’re looking and sounding friendly nobody will mind. You’re establishing the tone for a lively meeting.

A way through this one can be covered by making it clear at the start that if ‘anything is unclear, please stop me and ask’ which is easier to visualize if you think of the speaker leaning forward on the table with their hands open and smiling. It’s a courteous, sensitive, well intentioned statement which clears the air sufficiently to create a less guarded atmosphere early as well as setting the scene for collaboration.

In my experience, this kind of human exchange reduces the risk of missing cues from around the table because we’re all on the same page and feeling positive…asking each other questions, checking for understanding and more likely to express our concerns.

We often assume that, in a meeting, it’s the people doing the talking who are in control but this is certainly not the case. The answers to carefully aimed questions can provide huge amounts of intelligence for competitors and collaborators alike. Small titbits of information which suggest breakthroughs or new innovations may put missing pieces into the information jigsaw which our competitors are putting together about us and it’s an opportunity for Active Listening to come into it’s own.

When you read a definition of it, Active Listening, is actually the minimum anyone would expect to get from having a conversation with someone but the importance of direct speech may have been devalued for speakers and listeners as we are used to accessing news and information direct from the source, as it were.

In meetings, engage, be creative, be yourself, listen and remember, others are listening.