Meetings are meant to be a time for people to exchange ideas and insights. While there are many components to effective meetings, one factor most people would put on that list is engaged participants.
I mean, a good meeting can’t be quiet, can it?
Maybe, at least at times.
Let’s start with my main premise here – to be engaged in a meeting doesn’t necessarily mean you are talking.
As a facilitator, I didn’t always understand that. In meetings, I was looking for people to share their ideas. I was looking for energy and momentum and synergy. And if that didn’t exist from everyone, I wondered if they were on-board, interested, and engaged.
Over time though, I have learned that talking doesn’t equal engagement. If you buy this premise, or are at least willing to suspend your judgement, read on.
- Some people’s communication and thinking styles are more reserved and measured – and if their point is made, they don’t feel the need to make it again.
- Some people are more observers than speakers.
- Some people weren’t as prepared for a topic and are considering in silence.
- Sometimes the conversation is moving too rapidly, or in too scattered of a manner.
- Sometimes people are wanting to talk, but not finding a chance to “get a word in.”
I’ll even go a step further and say that sometimes in meetings, silence is needed and should be created. Some of these times include . . .
- When the topic or decision is complex.
- When a brand new point has been contributed that deserves consideration.
- When the energy has gotten too high.
- When new ideas are required (a pause in brainstorming should be extended, not taken as a call to close down the activity).
- When you want people to really think!
So as a leader or meeting facilitator, here are a couple of suggestions to place silence in a new perspective and use it to the group’s advantage.
1. Frame silence differently. When it is quiet in your meeting, let that sit for a second. Use the silence, rather than immediately trying to fill the air with more words.
2. Create space for thinking. Providing thinking time in meetings can lead to better results, so allow for, and perhaps even plan for, that space within the structure of your meetings.
3. Don’t judge the silent people. Rather, invite them to share, and make it comfortable if they don’t have anything new to add.
4. Change your pace. You can use silence to manage the flow and energy of the meeting. The best meetings don’t have to be gab-fests or have a frantic pace.
Think about the role of silence in your next meeting, and use it wisely. When you do that, silence might well be golden.
And for even more resources for communicating effectively (and for better results), check out our DISC blog.