Silence – the secret to better meetings

Meetings.  Love them or hate them they become a necessary part of any job.  But how do we make them better?

You may not have considered silence to be a partner in good meetings … but you’d be surprised.

One of the things I was taught early on in my career was to consider the real point of each meeting.  Sometimes we can feel a pressure to fill the time with words, with slides and with lots of stuff … but why?  Often meetings are convened in order to arrive at new ideas, at solutions or to find collaborative plans in order to move forward.

If we focus on the aim in mind, sometimes too many words can be a problem.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is just a churchy or religious thing to do but many companies are considering th place of silence in the way they work, gather and make decisions.

How about these five silent ideas aimed at transforming your meetings:

  1. Begin with silence.  Once you’ve welcomed everyone ask for a few minutes of silence.  This enables people to settle, to collect their thoughts and if needed to find calm and focus.  The wonder of silence is that it creates a space for all of us, whether loud or quiet, whether extroverted or introverted.  It allows us to us.
  2. Silence in conflict.  If things are getting fraught and you feel you’re getting nowhere take some time to be silent. Time it.  Explain that we’re going to take a few moments to re-boot and to breathe.  Then try again and you’ll find the atmosphere has changed.
  3. Silence in decisions.  You’ve come to your conclusion and reached your aim.  Give a period of silence to reflect on what’s been decided.  This allows things to settle and for people to begin to own the decision that’s made.  Its also gives space for thankfulness and for encouragement.  You did it.
  4. Silence at conclusion.  Not everyone finds they have a voice in meetings.  Louder, more extroverted people may dominate discussion.  Give a few minutes of silence at the end of a meeting, then ask if anyone has any further thoughts.  You’ll find the quieter voices have had time to reflect and will contribute if they feel they want to.
  5. Reflect in silence.  Either before your meeting or at it’s end, find the space for 5 minutes of silent reflection.   This gives you helpful perspective and allows you to find your whole self and it’s place in the plans being discussed.  Your are more than your words.  Silence brings wisdom and self assurance.

Each of these ideas is tried and tested.  Do give them a go.

Initially this may feel weird and people may fidget in the silence.  Encourage them to relax and to persevere a little.  After a while this will feel more normative and people will relax.

Do you use silence in your meetings? Why not let us know @space2breathe or by contacting us.

Posted in Blog, Silent Challenge, Thinking, Work and tagged , , .

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