Beverly Inman-Ebel

My favorite definition of a meeting comes from the American Heritage Dictionary. It reads that a meeting is “a joining or conjunction.” Okay, you probably agree that meetings require people to join together either electronically or preferably face-to-face. But a conjunction? Hmmmm.

If you know me, you realize I am going to play with this definition. There are all kinds of people in meetings, just like we have an array of conjunctions at our disposal. Let’s suppose that the conjunctions reflect on the different types of participants.

And – This conjunction would be people who like equality. One person or part is not more valuable or stronger than the other. As in, “I want milk and cookies.” They don’t want just one; the two are equally a part of the feast.

While this philosophy has merit, sometimes I want to liven up the Ands in a meeting. A does not always equal B. Ideas and solutions are not created equal. I want to tell the Ands to get off the fence and pick a side.

Or – This conjunction would have you choose one over another. They love it when there is a vote. Building a consensus with them in a meeting is somewhat of a challenge. There is a time for choosing, yet many Ors enter the discussion with their mind made up and are challenged to open up their minds to the other side. “Do you want milk or cookies?”

So, Because - These two people are in the same family. In a meeting they like to follow sequential thought. They build upon one idea until it naturally leads to another. They can be good candidates for building upon the ideas of others and gently pulling the group towards consensus. “You want milk because it quenches your thirst left by the sweet and salty cookie.”

But – Every meeting has a person who finds fault with the plan. While But is technically a conjunction, its function acts more like a separator. This person hears something and immediately diminishes it by stating something they consider more important. It is as though the first contribution is not valid or important. “You want the cookie, but you need the milk.”

Okay, I’ve had my fun with the analogies. I have been a participant, facilitator, and leader in a variety of meetings both large and small, low-keyed and high-powered. Regardless of what type of conjunction you are, here are some guidelines that may help you become more effective:

-Listen more than you talk.
-Wait about one third into a conversation before you give your opinion.
-Ask questions that begin with “what” and “how”.
-Come prepared.
-Watch the group. It’s what they don’t say that will give you a huge advantage if you are paying attention.
-Refrain from strong language.
-When you get tense in a meeting, slowly move.
-When you get truly stressed, drop your pen or bend down to tie your shoes, keeping your head below your heart for 3-5 seconds. This sends the blood flow back into your left hemisphere and helps you to regain control of yourself.
-Choose your battles. If you fight them all, you’ll only be seen as a warrior, not a chief.
-Keep an open mind.
-Speak your voice during the meeting and leave with one voice.

Join together and be a conjunction that facilitates effectiveness. Meet. Live your dreams!

Beverly Inman-Ebel is founder and CEO of TLC, Talk Listen Communicate, LLC
Copyright 2010, author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved.

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