How to Get Respect in Meetings

Dear DW,
My coworker is always interrupting me and dominating the discussion during meetings. How can I handle this situation gracefully?
Tired of Being Talked Over

Dear Tired,
Not only can a domineering coworker be annoying, but he or she can inhibit the sharing of game-changing ideas. Try waiting for a pause and politely say, “I have something to add.” If that doesn’t work, it’s time to get more creative.

Enlist the help of an ally during work meetings, suggests Jaime-Alexis Fowler, founder of Empower Work, a San Francisco–based organization that provides confidential career advice via text or chat. Set a plan beforehand, so that if the colleague interrupts you, your ally will turn the conversation back to you when there’s a pause and ask you if you were finished with your thought.

If you have a good relationship with the colleague who interrupts you, try bringing it up privately, Fowler says. Say something like, “I know you care about diversity of opinion and you want to make sure 
everyone’s voice is heard.” Then mention that you sometimes feel as if you’re not given a chance to make all of your points. “The colleague might not realize that he or she is constantly interrupting you,” Fowler says.

Another way to change the dynamic: Set time limits. Suggest to your boss or the meeting leader that the team use a stopwatch to give all participants a set amount of time to talk.

Finally, find a way to follow up with the team after the meeting or do some type of post-meeting wrap-up where participants can submit additional ideas via a group email or Slack thread. That way you make sure your voice is heard.

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