Archive for April 22nd, 2010

If You’re Sitting on the Sidelines, Whose Fault is That?

There was a bit of kvetching going on last week on one of the listservs I belong to.

I don’t really consider myself a member of that particular list as I’m only an observer there on behalf of one of my clients, but the group dynamic is common to many of the networks I belong to and a constant source of business musing for me.

You see, someone asked a question and as usual, out of thousands of members, only a handful offered up any input of their own (even if it was just to state that they had the same question or issue).

This handful is comprised of the few folks who regularly participate by answering and contributing questions, adding to conversations and just all around going out of their way to give thorough, detailed information that the rest of the list (who sit like bumps on a log and never bother to open their mouths) gets to learn from and take advantage of.

The super-participators make up the 20% who are actively engaged in 80% of the conversations and interactions.

Yet every so often, as was the case last week, there will be someone who pipes up to complain that basically the participators are participating too much. And then a few others will chime in with their agreement.

They’ll say things like they are scared to post or reply for fear of ridicule.

They say they feel like anything they might contribute would be quickly overshadowed.

They’ll point out that the regular participants aren’t the only ones with good advice and expertise to share.

They’ll complain that conversations get “hogged” by the regular contributors.


How does an online conversation get hogged by anyone?

If you aren’t speaking up, whose fault is that?

Unless someone has physically hog-tied you and duct-taped your mouth shut, no one is “making” you be silent; that’s your choice.

If you aren’t asking questions or adding your own two cents, don’t complain that others are dominating the conversation. You have exactly the same option and opportunity as everyone else to type words on your keyboard and hit the “post” button. It’s just that some people are go-getters and others are not. Which group do you fall into? (Which do you want to be in? Which one are you choosing to be in?)

And definitely don’t complain if the list is quiet and no conversations are even getting started (another frequent lament which is ironically almost always posted by people who NEVER particpate or start conversations anyway; they just sit around waiting for everyone else to do it for them). What have YOU done to start any yourself?

Give the floor to those same people who complain they “can’t get a word in edgewise” and ask for their feedback and input, and guess what you’ll still get nine times out of 10?


Because the problem isn’t really other people “hogging” the conversation. That’s just an excuse.

It’s not everyone else’s job to entertain and inform you. How about giving back a little yourself?

It’s also not anyone else’s job to hide or dim their own light so that you don’t feel insecure.

There are no “turns” in business. It’s ALWAYS your turn to speak up and get in the game.

If you want others to see you, to get to know you, to acknowledge you, you’re just going to have to step up to the plate.

Take a risk. Put yourself out there the same way the active participators do.

Ask for what you need. Dive in. Speak up. Exercise your curiosity and share what you know. Or simply ask questions.

Don’t hold back. But do own your own fears, jealousies and insecurities. No one else is responsible for them but you.

You get to choose to get in the game or sit on the sidelines.

But make no mistake–that’s your choice. Just stop whining about it if you choose the latter.