Interpret silence as disagreement

When the team is making a group decision, we tend to interpret silence as agreement. If people don’t speak up and argue, then they’re on board, right?

That’s a bad assumption. People keep quiet for any number of reasons:

  • They’re afraid of being the annoying naysayer
  • They don’t agree but they aren’t sure why or how to put it into words
  • They’re outnumbered so it feels pointless to argue
  • They feel meh about both sides so they’re going with the flow
  • They’re shy or socially anxious in general

So let’s flip it. I read about this tip in The Advantage. Tell your team that from now on, silence will be interpreted as disagreement. And then act on it: call on whoever is staying quiet and ask them if they disagree.

This is a quick and easy death to artificial harmony. It means that decisions actually have buy-in, even if it’s a disagree and commit situation. Plus, it encourages smaller meetings, since it won’t work in meetings with a lot of people. It’s a twofer!

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