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After reading a related question, I am rethinking about various discussion/meeting where I, and most other leaders/moderators in the discussion/meeting, call out someone for being quiet and not voicing their opinion.

The meetings were either casual or formal 10, and in both cases, I call them because I don't want them to feel left out, and I value the opinions of everyone. The casual meetings usually don't have a specific goal (hence just a discussion), but more formal ones usually have specific goals ("Where will we go on the next holiday?" "What will we do for our charity project?"). This excludes work meetings. All people know each other and most are friends, and usually, have only 8-13 persons.

Usually, we go in a circle and start from a random person (or the person next to the leader), then take turns in voicing opinions. Some usually skip (or just agree with another person), or are skipped because they take a long time to say something. After everyone has taken their turn, we get back to those that were skipped and ask for their opinion.

However, there might be several questions/agendas, and if the same persons keep quiet when it's their turn, we usually called them

Hey, Alice, why you so quiet. What do you think about this?
A bit literal translation, but the first part is a common phrase in Indonesian

In all cases, the person is a bit surprised, and usually either skip or giving a brief opinion or agree with someone's else opinion. (It may be worthwhile to mention some of them were not paying attention). That is always fine, and we seldom press for their opinion after this another line.

Come on, what do you think about this?

And drop it and progress to next person.

Although we would do this to all participants (which most are shy), there are some people that more often got pointed out (because they more often keep quiet).


Is it alright to call people out on a meeting/discussion when they are being quiet?

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    In the case of a meeting that has a fixed goal, does the lack of input from the quiet ones affect reaching a conclusion? – user3169 Aug 19 '17 at 21:56
  • @user3169 it might affect the person; let's say there are people suggested to go swimming, another badminton, and anyone else say they are fine with either. This person might don't like either and want to suggest basketball instead, but he does not. So he might not come at all (which is bad if it's a teambuilding session), or come but won't enjoy the event. – Vylix Aug 19 '17 at 23:06
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I used to run some work meetings and attended many others that were run by other departments as well. We had many types, but all fell into the 2 categories you described, some were what we called "round table" which meant more of a brainstorming or discussion session, others had formal agendas.

You could be more sensitive in wording. Instead of pointing out that someone has been quiet, especially if you know them to be shy, you could say,

I would love to hear Vylix's opinion/thoughts on this issue.

If you do not have to have their input, you need not make a point to force them into the spotlight by asking about their thoughts. This way you are not inadvertently making someone feel awkward if their verbal participation isn't actually needed.

I can understand that there are times we want to feel inclusive, so we attempt to ask to make the person feel noticed and affirm that their opinions have value. That is only good though if that is how they feel when it happens. I think asking if anyone has anything they would like to add, while giving enough time for someone to speak up, is adequate in cases where you don't require an actual opinion or information from them versus calling each person out who hasn't yet spoken. I would only call on someone specifically if I felt certain that they had something necessary or of value to add to the discussion.

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    If they're shy, getting everyone in the room to look at them is probably the wrong approach. Something more subtle like looking down at your notepad and saying "Vylix, is there anything you'd like to add?" might be a bit more friendly since it gives them to option to simply shake head or say "nope". – Valorum Aug 20 '17 at 1:21
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    As someone who's not really shy but just doesn't often have something to say, such a general statement / question is unlikely to get a meaningful response from me (i.e. what OP's experiencing) and would only serve to offend me (in that you're implying that I'm incapable speaking up). For someone who's shy, such a statement could go either way - if they're only too shy to interrupt, asking is fine, but if they're just uncomfortable speaking in a group setting, putting them on the spot will just make them uncomfortable (more so than them speaking in the general conversation flow). – NotThatGuy Aug 20 '17 at 4:28
  • @NotThatGuy precisely what I'm experiencing. I've noticed that some newer people leave the group after one or two meetings despite them (seemingly) was having fun, which indicates something wrong with our approach on discussions. – Vylix Aug 20 '17 at 7:06
  • @NotThatGuy if you mean asking for someone's thoughts wouldn't get a meaningful response I have to disagree. It worked well when I used it. Again, it's discretion though. I didn't say it merely to include someone in discussion but when I felt their input was important and should happen within the group. As it is, to that business, if you truly can't speak in a group, it's not the right job. That hampers everyone's ability to work as a team then. – threetimes Aug 20 '17 at 7:47
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In my opinion "forcing" someone to participate is not the right thing to do.

Someone who isn't "contributing" may be taking it all in, mentally summing up, and just waiting for the right time to launch their bolt into the blue.

Or they may not have anything to say, in which case you're just embarrassing them.

Or they may have been invited to a meeting they are not interested in, and which they're only attending because it's required.

Or they may be painfully shy and dread the idea of voicing an opinion in a public forum.

Regardless of the reason - if someone wishes to speak up, and it's appropriate to do so, that's great - but calling someone out for being "too quiet" is, in my considered opinion, a Bad Thing.

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I've often found myself not speaking up in many meetings because 1) the active participants don't leave enough room between expressions and 2) I don't believe the thoughts I'm having are very different or very important compared to what is already being expressed. I do speak up when I feel there's something important left unsaid.

When called upon I'm more than happy to either express those thoughts I've had or indicate that what I thought has already been expressed and I've nothing additional to contribute.

I have met many coworkers, however, who have a much harder time contributing in these meetings. Sometimes asking them to provide their thoughts is useful, but in many cases they simply don't feel comfortable in that type of environment, and calling on them makes them more uncomfortable. While it's easy to suggest that they should get used to it, or find another line of work the reality is that they've often been some of the best contributors to the teams they've been on, and it does everyone a disservice to force a particular method of interaction on everyone.

As such, you should learn what each person prefers, and only call on those who have indicated they would be happy to be called on but simply don't like interrupting or don't feel they have something important to say.

I don't think you should give a reason for calling on them, though, there's no need to say, "John, I notice you've been quiet, what are your thoughts?" when simply saying, "John, what do you think?" is sufficient. Once you find people who prefer to contribute their thoughts later, in emails or in smaller groups, you don't want to set the expectation that being quiet may result in being called upon. You only need to ask those you know who be fine with it.

Seek out the others later, either via email, one on one, or in smaller groups, and get their thoughts. Some will prefer smaller interactions, some will want/need more time to consider what's been said, and others simply have a difficult time speaking up in such meetings. It's worth figuring out who needs what level of interaction to bring out their best, and then provide the environment they need.

If you regularly meet in groups where you cannot know people individually and understand their preferred methods of interaction, you can simply ask near the end, "Is there anyone who hasn't been able to contribute their thoughts?" and once you've received additional feedback end with, "Please continue to consider this topic and get back to me or the group as new ideas come up."

This should provide the opportunity and support individuals need without making anyone feel uncomfortable.

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    Unfortunately asking when the meeting is concluding or to voice their opinion after the meeting will result in complete silence as if everyone agrees. I've had a couple meeting result in one or two people complained to other participants privately because it turned out they don't agree to the result of the meeting. Because the nature of the group (one of them has religious setting), it caused a very uncomfortable situation on the follow-up meetings. However I agree with overall of your answer, thank you. – Vylix Aug 20 '17 at 6:59
  • @Vylix that sounds like a more complex and difficult question, "How to handle people who withhold important opinions or information during meetings and then complain or work against the decisions made in the meeting later?" – Adam Davis Aug 20 '17 at 11:22
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Normally, it's a good idea to be "inclusive." But there are times when people don't want to be included. They may be shy about expressing themselves, or whatever.

There are times (critical ones) when everyone must "stand up and be counted." These informal meetings that you are running don't appear to be among them. While it's good of you to give everyone a chance to express themselves, some may choose to "express themselves" by not saying anything.

In this case, "let sleeping dogs lie." It would be impolitic to do otherwise. Someone may be keeping silent for "political" reasons, and if you call them on it, you might make them angry.

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I do not know how this would work in Indonesia but I would say something like:

Hey Sam! I'd like to make sure that you're happy with what we're deciding. In a moment I'll check in with you to find out if there's anything you would like to be considered.

Carry on the conversation with the group before returning to Sam with...

Hi Sam, what are your thoughts on everything so far?

However Sam responds is right for Sam so then paraphrase to ensure understanding and move on.

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I think it depends on why they are quiet. The key here might be to talk to regular shy participants and ask them what would make them more comfortable participating.

I've had this discussion with people before and here's a few of the reasons I got:

I find it hard to think on the spot during a meeting: After I heard this I started trying to give as much notice of the discussion questions so they could prepare their thoughts.

I don't like talking in front of others: To address those that are truly just shy, I would ask participants to write their responses on post-it notes or butchers paper and then go through the answers with everyone or distribute so everyone would take a turn reading random answers. (This one I could not do all the time, since it depends on the nature of the discussion. I hoped that by getting everyone to read out randomised answers, the shy people would get more used to speaking to the group without the fear of their answers being rejected)

I don't feel like it is my place / don't feel qualified to contribute ideas: For this I tried to emphasise that there are no stupid questions or ideas. I also took some time outside meetings to reinforce that we are asking because they are qualified to give input. We wouldn't ask if they weren't.

When you don't have the opportunity to do the above it is fine to ask a specific person for input. I have found however that you can often prompt them for input without putting them on the spot and making them uncomfortable by asking something like Can I hear from someone that hasn't spoken yet? or This side of the room has been a bit quiet, can I get a response from this side?

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Hmm ... how about "Hey X, would you like to weigh in on this?" That is, ask them if they want to give their thoughts. If they don't, then let it be; it's too bad for the shy or apathetic one, because he'll be less likely to get what he wants.

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I'm going by a somewhat liberal definition of "say something" as in both a long silence as well as not getting to the point quickly (and thus being interrupted).

or are skipped because they take a long time to say something.

This decision may also attribute to some unwillingness to speak up. Some people need time to think or may even need to think "out loud". By skipping them the individual may be given the impression that what they were going to say was unimportant on their first turn to speak. So if the value of their opinion has already been decided, why speak up?

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