Using Silence in Meetings LO2737
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 11:53:29 -0400

Replying to LO2726 -- was Noise Helps Signal!
[...Subject line changed by your host...]

Jim Michmerhuizen web residence at wrote:

"In connection with some group-think sort of meetings I have conducted in
the past, I was asking myself why I feel so uncomfortable with written
"agendas" and predetermined outlines and whatnot."


The Quakers also share you uneasiness with fixed agendas and formal
meetings. They have always begun their meetings in silence! And the
silence is not broken until one feels "moved" to speak. The greatest sins
are to speak when not moved and not to speak when moved. You can imagine
the "pressure of silence", yet in the past, meetings often went for
several hours without anyone speaking!

The whole idea was to still the noise of one's own thoughts and the world
around one so that true concerns could be raised. Verbal formulations and
predigested issues were not allowed to dominate. They made no distinction
between their religious and business meetings, so the latter meetings
began in the same way! Throughout the 18th century they were a stunningly
successful network organization, a learning community, who produced many
of the entrepreneurs of the first industrial revolution. They also
pioneered many of the activities that we now classify as the management of
human resources.

BTW has anyone used extended periods of silence as a way to open a
meeting? What were the contexts and what were the outcomes?


David Hurst, Speaker, Consultant and Writer on Management