Given the time we spent in meetings, here is a very simple question:
Why are we rarely fulfilled and fully satisfied with their outcome?
Again, keeping it simple and basic on purpose, if we think about it, meetings are gathering of human beings in which we seek to achieve something together: a decision, a common understanding, a plan, strategy, alignment, motivation towards an inspiring goal, a review, an assessment, …
Therefore, meetings are all great opportunities to stimulate our creativity, bring the best of our talent and fulfill many human needs we all share: collaboration, inclusion, connection, contribution, effectiveness, joy, etc., etc. …
That is where Non Violent Communication can be so helpful in contributing to more effective, productive, fulfilling and conscious meetings.
Even if you have not be trained on NVC, or have not read or heard anything about it, there are a few places you can start with on my blog or on the web.
Regardless, Non Violent Communication stipulates a few things that I have found to be extremely powerful in meetings, and that I am humbly trying to put in practice.
My favorite! When we decide to speak in meetings, ask yourself this very simple question: what is my intention behind the words I am about to pronounce? Genuinely? What is the need of mine that I will be fulfilling? Does that really come from a place where I want to help the team to find a solution? Or is it a strategy I use to be heard or seen?
By the way, no judgment here, both are fine in that they serve our needs. But for more productive meetings, checking our intention is a great place to start!
Attention to our own needs
Being aware of our needs that are not fulfilled is important. And the good news is that we have very strong cues that we can use: our feelings! Feelings are like warnings on our internal instrument board. If you get bored, exasperated or angry, that is a pretty strong indication your needs are now really fulfilled right now.
Either you can live with that (and having welcomed and brought your feelings and needs to the surface will most certainly start to bring calm). Or you have the courage to express your dissatisfaction and discomfort and your willingness to collectively contribute to a more productive meeting. And that is our choice and responsibility, every moment!
Attention to the needs of others
Our time together is precious, and meetings should not be wasted deciding who is right and who is wrong. If the purpose of the meeting is, for instance, to decide something that everyone should be comfortable with and ready to execute on, it is crucial every one needs have been taken in consideration. It does not necessarily mean there will be a consensus about that decision, but the meetings should be held in a way that the needs of the participant are heard. It could be the need to contribute, to be creative, be respected, …
I started with a favorite of mine; Here is another one!
Non Violent Communication tells us to finish with a clear ask, as this keeps the dialog alive and shows we care about the quality of the communication.
Asks should be expressed in present, and should be positive, realistic, attainable and negotiable.
At work, I have found that they are really two types of asks you can finish your sentences with:
- Towards an action.
For instance: “John, would you then be ok to send me your presentation by Monday noon?”
- Here, you will ask either what you said has been understood by for instance asking: “Dave, would you be kind enough to tell me what you have just heard me say?”
- Or you can inquire about how he/she feels about what you have just said or asked. For instance: “Helen, may I ask you how you feel after you have heard what I just asked/said?”
Non Violent Communication can be so helpful in having more productive meetings.
And because our needs will most likely be more fulfilled, the actions that need to happen as a result of decisions taken in those meetings will tend to be done more enthusiastically!