Is it Possible to Be Less Intelligent in Group Settings? (Part 2)

The Public Speaker provides tips for speaking-up in a group setting, especially when your mind turns to mush and you struggle to contribute. 

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #226

Tip #3: Quantity vs. Quality

Don’t feel like you have to give input for every topic or idea being discussed. Sometimes just listening and gathering information is appropriate.

However, don’t feel like you have to give input for every topic or idea being discussed. Sometimes just listening and gathering information is appropriate. It’s Ok if you only jump in when you have something important, relevant, or insightful to say. Your audience – whether it’s a discussion panel or your coffee club – will remember you if your words are thoughtful and powerful. Think quality over quantity.

I recently heard the statistic that at least 30% of people are introverts. If you are not an introvert, then, at the very least likely you work and/or live with an introvert. In a group setting, quieter personalities as well as their ideas are sometimes overlooked. But at the right moment, you can really pack a punch and make an impression by knowing what to say and when to say it.

Tip #4: Know Your Limit

However, saying very little is still an option, or only when directly called upon can work too. Ever walk in to a party with anticipation and cheer, and then feel you’ve had enough conversation after a few minutes? Some people thrive on group interaction, while others quickly get their energy zapped right out of them. For important events, When you recognize this happening, you can excuse yourself. Give yourself some alone time to re-energize. It might be enough just to stand in line to get a drink, but you could also consider a short walk, or some sort of longer break.

Tip #5: Choose a Professional Wingman

Another option in this situation is to choose to primarily listen. Sometimes the pressure is too great to entertain or respond, and listening can be just as powerful a tool. One more option when you’ve had enough, is to pair up with someone who is gains energy from group interaction. Think of this person as your professional “wingman.” They can take the lead and responsibility for keeping the conversation flowing and only pull you into the conversation when it’s absolutely necessary.

Tip #6: Put Yourself in Small Group Settings Often

The best way to get better at something is to do it often. This applies to being comfortable in groups as well. I treat putting myself in these situations as part of my job. It’s called networking. Say yes to speaking on the panel. Go to the neighborhood block party. Attend a political caucus. Join a book club. The more time you spend in small groups, the more comfortable you’ll become. It’s Ok to feel awkward. Although we have to learn to work as teams and share ideas, you should recognize if that is just not something you feel comfortable with. Part of overcoming the awkwardness is admitting that it’s not your favorite thing. Once you know this about yourself, you can work on improving. Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this discussion is that we all have something valuable to offer, no matter our differing personalities. Our society seems to reward the loudest or the fastest, but often it is the quiet ones who bring big ideas to the table. Some of the greatest leaders were introverts, with a quiet power that got others to listen. It’s Ok to like working alone, if that is how you channel your creative side, however, it’s still important to be able to express your ideas in groups. And for the extroverts reading this, remember, that just because someone isn’t speaking-up, doesn't mean they don’t have anything to share. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, Helping you maximize sales, manage perceptions, and enhance leadership through keynotes, workshops, books, and online courses. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

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About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.