While he puts it much more nicely in this Fast Company Now post, I think Adam Hanft is onto something: A little silence could go a long way toward making a meeting more productive. As he says:
- We're deep in a high-chatter, instant response, fill-the-frequency verbal flood. Meetings are a series of backed up, stacked up mini-speeches.
Of course, the more we talk the less we think. We're so afraid that someone will get ahead of us that there's barely a nano-second of silence. We're afraid of it. We're amped up and silence is a symbol of indecision or lack of clarity or a lack of forward motion. We're dangerously ponderless.
Imagine, if you will, a business meeting as a Pinter play. Those sometimes ominoius silences would snap a few key points into resolute focus, the way white space around a wall brings meaning and attention to a painting.
Some of the better speakers I've heard do ask everyone to take a few minutes to reflect on what they just heard, or jot down three ways they'll use what they heard, and I've found it to be a great learning aid. Why not for smaller meetings, staff meetings, training sessions? Let's take one of the proven tenets of adult education—that building in time for reflection enhances learning—and actually put it into practice. I'd be willing to bet the results could be pretty spectacular.