Being the smartest person in the room is both a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? Do you work with anyone like this? Are you this person?
No matter whether you are a leader, manager or do-er, a business person, trainer, professional speaker or STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) professional. Regardless of your level of education.
When you perceive yourself as the smartest person in the room, you may be the only person in the room with this opinion.
Here are a few ways to self-assess, before you lose more customers and turn off more colleagues.
For starters, you find it difficult to participate in meetings as a listener. Instead, you listen only to find an opportunity to lecture and showcase your knowledge. Or, show it off. Consequently, conversations with you are not conversations, at all. Instead, they are a monologue.
Then again, you find it difficult to refrain from improving upon everyone else’s ideas. You just have to add your own spin, don’t you? All the time. As a result of your predictable behavior, everyone in the room shudders when you ask: “But have you thought about things this (aka ‘my’) way?”
Or, you continuously disrupt discussion with a constant barrage of side-commentary, like “Right” “Yes” “Uh Huh.” Your demeanor translates to everyone else in the room like this: “Yes, I approve of the way you think because my opinion matters. Because I’m the smartest person in the room.”
Finally, you find it exasperating that everyone else isn’t smart enough to comprehend what you have to say. From your perspective, they simply are not ready for the complexity of your contributions. And your attitude shows.
Being the smartest person in the room starts by continuously asking yourself “So What?” before you speak.
Otherwise, everyone seated around the table loses out. What should be collaborative discussions become stalled and stalemated. Because, in fact, you just may be the smartest person in the room. However, you are not necessarily the most insightful, due to self-perception and somewhat flawed collaboration and communication skills.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to continue to be this way.
Asking yourself this single question is a great way to address your personal Elephant in the Room: the tendency to dominate conversations. Plus, this one question is easy to remember. This question becomes your professional editorial filter, forcing you to listen, rather than pontificate.
- So, what do I realistically have to contribute to the conversation that further develops the outcomes being discussed?
- And, so what is the significance of my contribution if I merely reiterate what has already been said, just in my own words, for my own benefit?
- Or, so what do I legitimately, collaboratively and positively gain by building upon previous discussion points (which also indicates that I listened, respectfully, to colleagues and clients)?
You see, the smartest person in the room listens and observes before they speak.
They may not be the most educated, but they are the best communicator and leader. Also, they honor the opinions of everyone seated around the table. Their goal is creating the optimal environment for building extraordinary solutions. As a result, they become brilliant, humble leaders who respect the abilities of everyone seated around the table.
Have I just described you? Would you like to become this person through professional innovation? Can you use this blog post to start a conversation with a colleague who needs to ask herself “So What?” more frequently?
Next steps towards professional innovation:
- Read these related posts on professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention.
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Babette Ten Haken serves organizations as a corporate catalyst and innovative speaker, strategist, coach and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention, especially in challenging digitally transforming environments. Babette’s playbook of industrial IoT team collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association.
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