Pop Quiz: How well do you communicate in meetings?

Your teacher may have been on to something when they announced pop quizzes. Shake up your communication style and get everyone at your work meetings on the same page with this schoolhouse strategy.

The biggest threat to the human workforce and the future of work by humans is just around the corner and picking up speed faster than anyone could have imagined.

That danger is not that technology and artificial intelligence will replace the need for humans to perform a wide variety of work functions.

The true danger — that is not going to go away — is that technology with AI is already replacing communication, cooperation and collaboration between humans with not just hard-wired inflexible technology, but with agile autonomous technology that can learn and adjust to a variety of circumstances.

Therefore, if you believe that technology is unable to think and adapt to changing situations, think again.

This is a photo of Mark Goulston, M.D.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

To make matters worse, specialized workers are having increasing difficulty communicating across specialties and silos. People are having a hard time listening. Instead of revealing that they hardly understand what others are saying and asking for clarification. They’d rather skip the embarrassment of appearing stupid and respond with a smile and nod.

If you think that’s not true, try this. The next time you communicate something for more than three minutes (which will go by in an instant for you if you’re the one doing the talking), ask the other person, “Do you understand what I have just said?”

Wait for their response, especially if they answer “yes.”

Follow up with this question: “Just to make sure of it, tell me what you understand about what I said and what was most important in what I said?”

If they respond and you realize they misunderstood you, will you agree and also realize that you have to fix something about your communication?

Let’s not stop there.

If you agree that work effectiveness suffers when you are misunderstood in a one-on-one conversation, imagine what happens when it is in a group setting, like in a team meeting.

RELATED STORY: How to communicate with people who resist your advice

If you want to test how well people understand you in meetings, something you might try is a pop quiz.

To do that, tell people at the top of the meeting that you are going to try something in the last five minutes. Add that you think this exercise will increase the meeting’s productivity.

Regardless of what the meeting is in the middle of, when there are five minutes left, stop whatever is going on and say, “It’s time to try the thing I mentioned at the beginning. How many of you had and enjoyed pop quizzes in school? I had them and didn’t like them.“

Wait for and allow the collective bewildered response that follows.

Then say, “Well, even though I wasn’t a fan of pop quizzes, I am going to give you one now.”

Hand out an index card to each attendee and say, “I would like each of you to anonymously write down the most important (as in one year), critical (as in three to six months) and urgent (as in this week) thing that you gleaned from the meeting.”

At first, you’ll look around and see confusion, but rest assured, it will be a good exercise.

Gather and shuffle the index cards, and then read them aloud. If everyone is on the same page about the most important, critical and urgent things that came out of the meeting, that’s great and you should tell them so.

If everyone is not on the same page, say, “I’ve got good and bad news. First, the bad news. Almost nobody is on the same page. But the good news is, I blew it. I’m the one running this meeting, so it’s my responsibility to ensure we’re on the same page. I’m going to get better at this. Oh and by the way, what I wrote down as the most important, critical and urgent is the following…”

This is a great exercise for making sure everyone stays focused on the same goals. It is also another way to make the case that technology with AI is lapping the field when it comes to communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

It’s not just what you do that will determine your future employability; it’s how well you communicate, cooperate and collaborate with your others in your workplace.

Test out your communication abilities here: Harvard Business Review: Assessment Tool: How well do you communicate during conflict?

Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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