Friday, January 20, 2012

What To Do When You’ve Got Nothing To Say

Meetings are sometimes held around conference ...Image via WikipediaYou’re in a meeting. Your boss turns to you to ask for your opinion on a topic you should know something about, and you have absolutely nothing to say.

After a long day of meetings the host goes around the room asking for final thoughts, and you’re coming up blank.

Or maybe it’s an e-mail you need to respond to, and you are expected to have something to contribute.

It happens. Sometimes you’ve just got nothing.

That’s how I felt this week about my weekly blog post. It was Wednesday afternoon and I still had no idea what to write about. I had nothing. And then I realized – having nothing is something we should talk about. After all, we’re expected to have an opinion. We’re expected to contribute. I’ve never seen anyone get ahead by not having anything to say.

So what should you do when you are coming up blank?

1. Start talking. Now, I will caution you, this doesn’t work for everyone (and you know who you are). I’m not talking about babbling, or meaningless chatter. But there are those who rise to the occasion once they start talking (and you know who you are).

2. Agree (or disagree) with what someone else said.
This is also an opener to start talking. Once you put it out there, the idea will form.

3. If appropriate, ask if you can take time to think about it
– but don’t take too long. Respond later the same day, if you can.

4. Start writing. If it’s an e-mail you need to respond, just start writing. There is no penalty for having a lousy opinion on paper until it’s sent. Once you start writing, chances are the answer will come. Just be sure to edit before you hit send.

5. Start with the conclusion.
If you know how to end your point – start there, then back into the why, how, and other supporting points.

6. Prepare in advance. You’ve seen people employ this strategy. There is always someone in the room that has a question to ask or a point to make – no matter what. It’s not necessary to do this all the time, but you don’t want to come up short when you’re the subject matter expert.

7. Compliment the team.
This works extremely well in a group meeting or work session. If you’re asked for a thought or opinion, and you are happy with what’s been done and said so far, play the teamwork card, and thank the group or specific individuals. Everyone likes a team player.

What are your suggestions for what to do when you’ve got nothing?
What has worked for you?

4 comments:

Joanne said...

I like the suggestions here, and it seems the "talking" block parallels "writers" block. In both instances, if you just start with something, some words, some ideas, the rest then follows naturally.

Sandra said...

I like to ask a question. Ask for clarification or elaboration on a point. At a minimum, it shows I am listening and engaged. And often, it elicits something I want to comment on.

Dave E said...

If you are in a meeting and have nothing to say, either you we not listening or should not have been in that meeting in the first place. Assuming you are in the right place and have some sort of interest in the topic I would assume you have SOME opinion on the topic so you'd have something to say, even if it's only that you agree with what's been said.
Most meeting are far too long anyway, no need to add to that just in order to say something.

Colette said...
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