Tips, Videos, Handouts

Silence

Some people can’t stand silence, especially in a group, and they feel they are doing everyone a favor by filling the void! Are they?

With a Maine spring brook babbling in the background, Craig explains three benefits of silence and how keeping your mouth shut can be highly efficient.

Here are two related Good Group Tips that Craig has written: Reflective Pause and Talk or Listen.

 

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

 

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. Can you hear the waterfall behind me? It is spring time in Maine!

Look, in many cultures — and this is true in many American cultures especially — there’s a sense that silence is a waste of time, especially in a group. If no one is saying anything, that must mean that nothing is getting done. Some people cannot stand silence, especially in a group, and they feel the need to speak up to fill the silence. They feel as if they are doing everyone a favor by saving us all from the dreadful silence that would otherwise be occurring.

But I believe that silence has some very practical benefits and I think that it’s underrated.

For one thing, when I hold my thoughts and remain silent it’s as if gesturing to an open door for someone else to go first. I happen to be the type of person who can think pretty quick on my feet and I’m not bashful about speaking up. But you know what? Not everyone is like that. And for many people who are not so fast on their feet, who are not so quick to speak up, a few moments of silence can give that person the courage to collect their thoughts and walk through that open door. When I am silent it is letting someone else go first.

A second benefit of a moment of silence is that it honors the statement of the previous speaker. Some cultures have an ethic of a bookend of silence before and after each person speaks. What a nice idea. It is a quiet saying thank you and honoring the comment that was just made rather than quickly rushing to the next.

A third practical benefit of silence is that it allows me to collect my thoughts. It allows the group to reflect on what has been said and collect its collective thoughts. It slows things down, chills things out.

Look, we are quick to get this idea that if the group is silent, that must be a waste of time. That must be inefficient! If we’re not talking we’re not producing. Well if you want to see real inefficiency, it’s having to go back and fix things because a regretful comment was made in haste. That’s what causes huge inefficiencies; when somebody just couldn’t help themselves from opening their mouth and now the whole group has got to spend a whole bunch of time dealing with that.

A friend once said, “A moment of silence is never a waste of time.” And I think that is worth thinking about for a moment.

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