Communication occurs constantly during meetings. If you're the leader, you're probably talking quite a bit. But every team
member in the room is saying something, even if hardly anyone but you is speaking. By watching the crowd's body language,
you'll learn what everyone is feeling. So what? Detecting boredom or disagreement early will help you re-engage team members.
Anybody who runs meetings knows the people in the crowd aren't always agreeable. But don't let team members get away with
nonverbal resistance. When you see people rolling their eyes, reclining in their chairs, or staring blankly, they're not paying
attention. Don't prolong the misery. Cut the discussion short or turn the room around. One way to help tuned-out team members
focus is to mention their physical responses using "I" statements. For example, say, "I'm wondering what I'm doing that's
making everybody bored." If you hear a valid criticism, work to change your presentation. If no one responds, you're facing
one of three situations: Team members are uncomfortable with the topic, they're not knowledgeable about the topic, or they
just don't care. Find out which it is and explain that speaking up now is the only way to improve the outcome of the discussion.
Occasionally, a team meeting gets heated. By using some body-language techniques of your own, you can de-escalate the tension.
First, mirror the angry person's communication style and breathing patterns. Let's say the person is talking loudly at level
10. If you start talking at the same loudness, but slowly start to soften your tone, he or she will follow you. This type
of mirroring isn't mimicry, but rather an attempt to influence the subconsciousness. By matching the upset team member's actions,
you're able to connect and calm him or her down.
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Boards and CEO of Innovative Veterinary Management Solutions in Phoenix. Send questions or comments to