What comes after the silence

At the ARL institute, DeEtta Jones talked with us about the Facilitator’s Pause. The Facilitator’s Pause is the moment in which you let silence extend that much too far after an initial brainstorming session, waiting until someone feels compelled to speak to fill the uncomfortable silence. When they do begin speaking, they often begin the second round of brainstorming, and that second round is where the really interesting and innovative ideas come from.

I forgot about that piece of advice until today when I left an hour and a half long planning meeting. I expected the meeting to go 45 minutes, and, indeed, after 45 minutes, at a natural pause I started to wrap up the meeting, saying, “This is good feedback, enough for us to get started with. If you have other thoughts, please send them to any of the team leaders by email, or talk to one of us.” Instead, everyone started offering more ideas. At the hour and ten minute mark at another natural pause, I did the same thing, and they kept talking.

I should have, acknowledging the value of the Facilitator’s Pause, remained quiet both times and let them keep talking through the silence.

But they’re smart and engaged. And they kept talking, knowing they had more ideas, but that they were ‘wacky’, and ‘out there’, and ‘probably unpopular’ ideas, but they said them anyway, and now my list of notes is spectacular. We’re going to have the best planning document we’ve had yet. We’re going to change the way we work in interesting, exciting, and important ways. We’re doing it because we had an open conversation, and because we went beyond the comfort zone. We went past the uncomfortable silence, and we dug into the stuff that comes after.

I’m feeling lucky that I work with people who are independent enough to know to talk over the meeting chair when she’s jumping the gun.

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