Mar 23, 2018

How to tactfully interject in a virtual meeting

I interject when people are speaking. I do it often, and without batting an eye. I’m not aggressive – I’m remote.  It’s a running joke at work that my identifying catchphrases are “There’s some serious echo!” or “Can you get closer to the mic?”  So much so, that I was even cast in a mini-series called Remote Worker Woes: Can You Hear Me Now? Remote employees constantly walk a fine line between wanting to be heard and wanting to hear. This is why I’m not shy when it comes to interjecting in team meetings.

Injecting vs. Interrupting

It’s not as easy as it sounds. I fear I’ll damage the way people perceive my listening skills, come across as rude or look like a stage-hog.  As remote employees, we have to separate this insecurity from the reality. Which begins with first understanding the difference between interrupting and interjecting.  As one of our esteemed Lingo Live coaches, Jon Nilsen, pointed out, there’s a difference between interrupting and interjecting.  As a remote employee, you should interject to say “I want to hear what you’re saying, Crystal, but I can’t.” However, generally speaking, you should avoid interrupting to steal the floor from someone.

Be aware of the length of interjection. I used to flex all my best American cultural softening phrases.  While these softening phrases have a time and place, in my case, it was a waste of time. Listen to this saga:  “I’m sorry to cut you off,  you were making a great point, but it’s hard to hear what you’re saying, so would you just mind getting a bit closer to the mic?”  All I needed to say was “Hey, I can’t hear you.” The quicker I speak up—and the less words I use to do it—the sooner the problem can be solved and my coworker can return to her point.  

Interjection still feels counter-intuitive. Sometimes, it even feels counter to my personality. But when it comes to bridging the communication gap between HQ and remote employees,  interjection takes another form—it is sign of respect. It shows my coworkers I’m interested in their contributions.

Self-Advocacy for Remote Employees

Little interjections also fit into the broader picture of self-advocacy as a remote employee. While “too much” interjection might appear to cause frustration, a conscientious employer and team members will recognize the larger issues at play (audio or tech difficulties) and seek a long-term solution.

If you’re new to interjecting in team meetings, you might feel more comfortable adding “sorry” to your interjection, but be careful. You don’t have anything to apologize for. You were invited to the meeting for a reason, and I bet it wasn’t just to sit there in a bubble of silence. Your team members are seeking your insights and opinions, which you can’t give if you can’t hear what they’re saying.

If you’re just starting out as a remote employee or feeling frustrated about the audio situation at work, interjecting makes your struggle visible. It also situates the audio issues as a mutual roadblock for your coworkers.  Importantly, it’s not your duty to absorb all the frustrations of AV trouble. Interject as many times as you need in one meeting, in large group, small-group, and 1:1 settings. It’s a way to take ownership over your space as a fully present and participatory team member. In a setting where you can’t hear the conversation, cutting off your coworkers shows them you care.

-Alyssa Conley, Director of Coach Community

Interested in reading more?

Check out the first installment of “Healthy Habits for Remote Workers”!


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