One rainy Sunday, when I was no more than eight years old, I recall having a conversation with my parents and two older brothers around the dinner table. Everyone had something to share and we were all talking over each other in bursts and shouts. Not a single one of us was discussing the same topic. Halfway through dinner, there was a brief moment of pause. I couldn’t take it any longer, and found myself declaring (in my most grown-up voice), “This is NOT a conversation – we have to take turns!”
As an adult, I now understand just how crucial turn-taking is to the success of any group endeavor – especially within professional organizations. For example, research published in the journal Sciencefound that groups whose members foster equal individual participation – both in terms of numbers of turns and length of turns – consistently demonstrate higher quality decision-making skills and an increase in overall group performance results. This is significant, folks.
Turn-taking isn’t always easy. Perceptions about hierarchy, expertise, even our conditioned beliefs about gender roles (whether conscious or unconscious) can all contribute to roadblocks that prevent beneficial and equal collaboration.
Better outcomes begin with mindfulness. Are you the one who chronically seizes the spotlight, or do you find yourself constantly losing center stage? Are you the frequent witness of unfortunate interruptions, but don’t know whether or how to intervene? Armed with the knowledge that organizational outcomes hang in the balance – what are you going to do about it?
I’m here to tell you that “conversation domination” is preventable. You can take action. Now that you know what’s at stake, own your responsibility to see that turn-taking prevails and balanced collaboration wins the day.
The next time you’re part of a group conversation, use the following steps to navigate turn-taking and its disruptive counterpart, interruption.