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Silences that let us access deeper ideas

Photo by Boris Smokrovic, Unsplash

Photo by Boris Smokrovic, Unsplash

Many meetings are a blur of nonstop talking. We arrive, chitchat, we get into the subject, some talk more and some less, we wrap things up and head right to our next meeting.

A colleague recently told me about Amazon's Silent Start protocol. Brilliant! I imagine that creating a spacious interval for people to connect with themselves, and their deeper responses to the material, dramatically increases the quality of their interaction.

My own experience of the power of silence in groups began when I took Otto Scharmer's course on awareness-based systems change. Each person's sharing was followed by a timed period of 2-3 minutes of silence, for everyone to integrate what was shared. I always found this helped me listen more fully, and respond from a deeper place.

When people meet to work in pairs, silence is uncommon. But, my own experience is that it can be highly productive in this context, too. That's why so many learning missions that utilize structured, timed AB sharing also include timed silence. A pattern that works in many contexts is:

  • 3-8 minutes - Person A shares in response to a probe or question
  • 1-2 minutes - Timed silence
  • 3-5 minutes - Person B reflects back what came up for them during the sharing
  • 8-10 minutes - Timed dialogue
  • ~20 minutes - Repeat, with roles switched

We know that silence is good for the brain. Let's find ways to bring it consciously into our conversations, too. If you'd like to learn more about structured ways to bring the power of silence into your organization through peer- and mission-based learning, I'd love to chat...and share silence, too!