Silent Majority versus Vocal Minority

As teachers or facilitators, we’ve all been there. We ask a question and the silence is just too much to bear. Someone please say something! We therefore either answer our own question or call on someone we know wants to answer. If we continue to only call on those who volunteer to talk, we run the risk of depending on the vocal minority to feel accomplished.

Lets say you have a room of 10 people. Three people are constantly talking. You want to get through your agenda, so you continue to call on them. The vocal minority has taken over and you have no idea what the silent majority (those 7 quiet ones) are feeling or thinking. When you don’t elicit feedback during your class on the majority, you always run the risk of thinking everyone is on board with how awesome you are (And, by the way, you really are awesome!), only to be disappointed when you get those evaluation forms. In the case of classroom teachers, it’s the moment when your test results don’t align with the what you though the kids knew so well.

Luckily here are two tips for making sure you don’t fall under the smell of the vocal minority.

Think-Pair-Share with accountability: You in your infinite wisdom pose a question. You then tell your participants to pair up with someone else to discuss the question. Here’s the twist: Each person will be responsible for reporting out his or her partner’s response. This will give you an opportunity to know what the silent majority is thinking!

Stop and Jot: You ask people to write a written response to your question. As people are writing, make sure to skim the notes of the quiet ones. Compliment one of the silent majority and invite them to share with the larger group. More often than not, this simple step prompts people to talk.

These two steps can be used in any professional setting, from a board room to classroom. As a leader, teacher or facilitator you want to try to determine who is getting your message so that you can ensure it is received correctly for future action.

How did it go? What other strategies do you use to get out of the vocal majority versus the silent majority?

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