I recently attended a meeting where after we went around the room and introduced ourselves, we dropped into a period of silence before anyone began to speak. This was not an uncomfortable silence but simply a time for each of us to become present so that the ensuing conversation felt very different than the way an ordinary discussion might go in a typical meeting. When the conversation finally started, it felt as though we were each speaking from a grounded collective as opposed individual separate voices.
Several years ago, the keynote speaker at a conference started his talk with a full minute of silence. This wasn’t a nervous silence but simply one of “arriving”. It seemed to me that as he looked out into the audience in silence, the speaker was inviting us into his world. While the audience was restive to begin with, as the minute passed everyone seemed to calm down and wait with quiet expectancy for him to begin. When the speaker finally did begin to talk, the entire room was with him.
I was on a conference call several months ago where each of us was invited to take a few minutes to check-in. That day one of the participants wasn’t feeling particularly verbal and said so when it was her turn. But instead of passing up the opportunity to take a turn, she simply became quiet allowing the rest of us on the call to drop into a meditative state. It seemed that after her turn, the quality of the call moved from the ordinary busyness of day-to-day conversation to one of deep respect and regard for each other.
These are three examples of how silence can bring people together if we allow ourselves to rest rather than chafe when nothing is being said.