How to Bring Someone Into a Discussion?

If this doesn’t happen to you at least three times a week, don’t read on: You get an invitation to a meeting, and you decide someone else you know should be in the loop, so you forward them the invitation. In some video conferencing platforms, you can even pull someone into the discussion in real-time. Or, you are five emails into a heated thread, and you decide to add someone to the distribution list, so you “Reply All,” announcing you are adding that particular person to the discussion. 

It happens to all of us, and we are all well-intentioned. We either want to add more people for the sake of transparency and information flow, or we genuinely believe they can contribute to the discussion. 

Now, consider that from the perspective of the receiver. When I get pulled into a meeting (even when the invitation is forwarded in advance) or when I am added to an email thread already in progress, I first wonder, “Why?” Why am I needed in this conversation? If I am required, why wasn’t I in the loop in the first place? And does the person who triggered this communication flow expect me to share my two cents, given that I just showed up practically uninvited? 

Bringing someone into a discussion can often be ineffective and frustrating. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should avoid that at all costs; sometimes, this addition is required to promote the issue at stake. The simple solution involves two questions and two pieces of information you should share.

Question 1: Am I adding the right person?

Whether email or a meeting, every workplace interaction must be designed to perform a concrete initiative and promote a predefined mission. The initiative is the desired outcome of this specific interaction. The mission is an overarching goal that the initiative can help us achieve. 

Given that the mission and initiative are known, the first question you must ask yourself is, “Can the person I am about to add to the discussion help us promote the initiative in the context of the mission?” Everyone who takes part in the discussion is assumed to be able to take an active part in promoting the initiative, and the potential newcomer is no exception. 

Of course, if you don’t know what the initiative and mission are, the problem is even more significant. This is a good enough reason to stop the discussion and ask the person who initiated it to define the concrete target and the overarching goal. 

Question 2: Does this person want to be in the loop?

That’s really basic. We are flooded with emails and meetings as it is. Not everything that seems important to us is perceived with the same priority by others. Asking the person we are about to add into the loop if they can join or want to join the discussion at this time is basic etiquette. 

Needless to say, as you ask this question, the context is super important. When you explain it, mention the initiative and the mission. These are the primary and most important details your colleague has to know to consider the priority of this discussion compared to other activities they are involved in. 

Share 1: Context and Background. 

Let’s assume our colleague is relevant and expressed their willingness to participate actively in the discussion. Since they weren’t invited initially, we need to bring them up to speed on where the discussion is. Just forwarding an invitation or adding them to an email thread and expecting them to catch up is unrealistic (and not really fair). 

If you’ve already shared the mission and the initiative, that’s great, but other contexts and background materials are likely relevant to the discussion. Even if everything is written somewhere down the thread, finding what is essential and making sense of it could be challenging without the guidance of someone in the original discussion. 

Share 2: Introduction. 

Finally, it is time to introduce the newcomer to the forum who has already engaged in the discussion. It doesn’t matter if everyone knows each other personally. You must explain why you bring someone new into the discussion and what they are expected to contribute. 

Apart from aligning expectations, this can also help the people already engaged in the discussion to be more patient if something is unclear or allegedly trivial questions are asked. 

Sounds like too much? Isn’t it simpler to forward whatever we have to the person we believe should be in the loop? These two questions and two pieces of information sound like a formal protocol but think of it. Your workplace interactions must help the team move forward. At the same time, many of us have too many emails and meetings, and blindly forwarding stuff doesn’t really help. The only way to balance these two facts is to verify we are doing the right thing as we add more people into the loop. We must ensure whoever we add to the discussion has a good starting point that enables them to actively contribute to realizing the initiative.

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