Re: Using Silence in Meetings LO2754

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 22:38:22 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO2737 --

On Mon, 11 Sep 1995 wrote:

> 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."
> Jim,
> 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?

Oh. Yes. The Quakers...

Thanks. I'd never have made the connection.

Many years ago I spent a weekend retreat at a tiny monastery. Each day
the monks followed a rule of silence until after the evening meal. So did
we lay people.

The experience was astonishing. Almost everything that I'd thought needed
words turned out not to need them at all. And a great richness of
immediate experience, perception, sensitivity, was revealed, which is mostly
buried under layer after layer of word-think in our usual way of
conducting our daily life.

     Jim Michmerhuizen
     web residence at
. . . . . . . . . .   Actions speak louder than words   . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . .        but not as clearly         . . . . . . . . . .