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When Interrupting Isn’t Rude, But Necessary – Meeting Moderation 101

Written by: Laura Di Franco, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Laura Di Franco

If you lead a community and run events for your members, and you’re in charge of holding and managing a safe space in meetings for your members to interact, communicate, express themselves, and learn, then understanding your role as a leader and moderator (and the need to interrupt someone) is crucial.

business team at the office having a meeting

I’ve been running meetings, workshops, and interactive events for a long time. I remember someone sharing feedback about a meeting we attended together and the person leading it:

“Nobody held him accountable for taking up all the space in the meeting. Nobody was willing to interrupt him, and that started to feel very uncomfortable. If the leader of the meeting can’t control what’s going on, then I don’t know if I want to be there. It doesn’t feel safe.”

Great leaders facilitate great leadership from others. We’re all leaders. But we’re not all practiced at great leadership skills. One of the most important things a leader models, especially in a meeting with her colleagues, is creating a safe, creative, inclusive, accepting, and dynamic space for others to share their ideas. The next most important thing a leader does is make sure all voices are heard and that each voice is given a fair shake of time without taking over everyone else’s time. Time and energy vampires tend not to be practiced in the respectful pause or in the crucial skill of active listening, two skills necessary for productive meetings and interactions. So it’s the leader’s job to pause those people and help them with some awareness.

I agreed with my friend that day:

“I hear you. Nobody took responsibility for keeping the meeting on track, and so it started to feel like a waste of time.”

I wonder how much time is wasted in meetings because nobody is willing to respectfully interrupt someone for fear of being the bad guy. My patience has worn thinner over the last few years on this topic. Life is short. We have important, world-changing work to do. Working with a team is challenging to begin with without the additional stress of having to police one person taking up all the oxygen in the room and not respecting their colleagues by not giving them a chance to speak. As a leader, it’s not only not rude to interrupt someone, it’s necessary to make sure you keep your colleagues safe. Participants who look up to you as the leader or moderator rely on you to practice those skills. I liken this to being an ‘awareness monitor’ to keep people aware that they haven’t stopped talking, are repeating themselves, or aren’t giving others a chance to speak, ask questions, or make comments.

Many people I speak to are afraid to interrupt others. “I don’t want to be the bad guy,” they say. They consider it disrespectful, so instead, they allow a person to speak without pausing or considering the rest of the participants in the room. But when you’re on a schedule, with an agenda and a goal, and there isn’t enough time for people to share drawn-out comments or opinions, you must be able to gently, respectfully, and effectively interrupt. It isn’t about you or what they think of you; It’s about maintaining a safe and productive workspace.

Here are three scripts to use when you need to respectfully interrupt and keep your meeting running smoothly:

  1. “Please pause a moment. I need to keep us on track.”

  2. “Please hold that thought.”

  3. “Please pause. Let’s do keep everything running smoothly today... "

Then you can follow up with a sentence that helps the person feel seen and heard and places a bookmark where you paused them so that, if needed, they can come back to you or the group later with the rest of their thoughts. It’s important to offer that option for further communication to the person if they should need or want it. You’re not there to shut people down. You’re there to ensure they’re heard, and everyone else in the room is, too. There’re many more versions of the gentle interruption and ways to very respectfully add awareness to the moment when someone takes up all the space in the room. It takes practice, but it’s worth the effort.

I remember a comment I heard from another friend in a networking group we attended:

"I loved how the moderator of the group ran things. The meeting was on time, and I felt like our time was respected and everyone had a chance to contribute. Some great ideas were shared, and then we could set up follow-up conversations for the topics we wanted to continue later. We got so much done!”

Yes! That’s how meetings should feel!

In my author communities, we often facilitate groups of 25 or more people at once. We have a lot to get done in a short amount of time. We rely on our participants to be active listeners and engaged contributors. We honor and respect every human showing up to those events and greatly appreciate their involvement. The energy starts with gratitude and ends with gratitude. And in between, we practice a dynamic and mindful environment that helps everyone feel like they’re part of something powerful. The results are books (and communities) that are waking the world up to what’s possible.

What if every meeting you led created that kind of result?

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube or visit my website for more info!

Laura Di Franco Brainz Magazine

Laura Di Franco, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Laura Di Franco, CEO of Brave Healer Productions, an award-winning publisher for holistic health and wellness professionals. She has 30 years of expertise in holistic physical therapy, 14 years of training in the martial arts, and her company has published over 50 Amazon bestselling books. She's a spoken-word poet, lover of dark chocolate, and has a contagious passion for helping you share brave words that build your business.



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