Silence at Meetings

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By David Clote

In the modern world, speed and distraction are everything. We have fast food, overnight delivery, instant email, and every song and movie ever created at the click of a button, for the small price of $9.99 a month of course. But many are beginning to realize that preoccupation and expediency can make for costly vices, as our attention spans are shrinking rapidly (Deitchman). Keeping attendees engaged can prove an ever more difficult task. Often, meeting leaders will resort to more stimulating presentations or activities to engage their participants. These strategies can certainly be effective, but one strategy frequently left underutilized is silence and stopping. Research has shown that taking breaks that utilize silence can have the positive effects of “refresh[ing] your brain and body” and “increase[ing] your energy, productivity, and ability to focus” (CornellHealth). Making space for times of silence and stopping or at least making them available to your attendees, is a great strategy to keep your audience engaged with your material. Here are some ways to implement this powerful tool in your next meeting.

Don’t Reach for the Phone!

The average person checks their phone 110 times per day. Often, we do it when we are wanting to take a “mental break” (Woollaston). However, research shows that it has the opposite effect, keeping your brain stimulated and possessing “high mental costs” (Polish). When implementing any time of stopping and silence, or any break for that matter, you may consider encouraging your participants to leave their phones out of reach so they won’t be tempted to spoil their down time.

Take a Walk

When sitting for long periods of time people tend to become unengaged. Walks often help individuals reenergize their body and reengage their mind. However, walks are often defined by chatting. This is not always a bad thing, but it keeps individuals from truly giving their brains time to rest. One may consider encouraging participants to take a walk alone so they can give their mind a break from the mental demands of sustained attention. If convenience allows, attendees may even consider taking their silent stroll outdoors, benefiting from not only the ambient atmosphere, but the serenity of nature. Silence added to scenery will make quite the dynamic duo, helping boost the already effective strategy of a walk to new heights.

Guided Meditation

Meditation has become increasingly popular in recent years as corporations have seen the value of mentally healthy employees. While guided meditation is not technically silent, it most certainly utilizes stopping and has been associated with positive mental and physical health outcomes. What’s more, there are numerous guided meditation options of all lengths and styles online, many of which are free. You can perform the meditation as a group or have participants scan a QR code, find a quiet area, and perform the meditation independently. Your choice will of course depend on time and space constraints, but both are excellent options. One excellent resource to consider is the app Headspace™, which offers numerous meditations for free, and even more for subscribers.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing like guided meditation, has found itself in more and more meeting rooms as of late. Its benefits are similar to that of meditation, though its process zeros in on breathing to bring about these positive health outcomes. Deep breathing unlike guided meditation, is a completely silent process. With so many techniques to choose from (Diaphragmatic breathing, Equal breathing, and 4-7-8 breathing, among others), and most being straightforward to teach, deep breathing proves to be an excellent way to implement silence and stopping in your next meeting (Breathwork vs Meditation). For more techniques and instruction, Othership.us provides excellent resources and tips.

Slowing to Silence

These approaches only begin to explore the many ways one can incorporate silence into meetings. Each has its benefits along with some constraints, but all share the common goal of keeping attendees mindful of the moment they’re in while reenergizing them for the moments you have so carefully planned to come next.

Life in the modern world is fast paced and loud, rewarding over commitment and high stress while fostering a skeptical view of silence and stopping. The fast pace can be necessary in appropriate measure, and the noise a celebration of a day’s work well done. However, misplaced incentives and skepticisms only distract people from the moments they are in and the things they were created to do. By bringing silence into your meetings, you are inviting your attendees to be a part of the meaningful changes you hope to bring into the world: one moment at a time, and hopefully now with plenty of slow, quiet moments in between.

MEET

David Clote is a contributing writer from St. Louis

 

References

Deitchman, Alyssa. (2024). WAIT, WHAT? ON SOCIAL NETWORK USE AND ATTENTION. Wp.nyu.edu. https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/wait-what-on-social-network-use-and-attention/

CornellHealth. (n.d.). Health.cornell.edu. https://health.cornell.edu/about/news/study-breaks-stress-busters#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that%20taking%20purposeful,”%20(see%20the%20research).

Woollaston, Victoria. (2013, 8 October). How often do you check your phone? Dailymail.co.uk. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2449632/How-check-phone-The-average-person-does-110-times-DAY-6-seconds-evening.html

Polish, Jay. (2019, 27 August). A New Study Says Scrolling Through Social Media Doesn’t Actually Give You A Mental Break. Bustle.com. https://www.bustle.com/p/taking-a-break-by-looking-at-social-media-doesnt-help-your-mind-reset-a-new-study-says-18682642

Breathwork vs. Meditation: Reasons to Choose One Over the Other. (2021, 16 Oct). Othership.us. https://www.othership.us/resources/breathwork-vs-meditation#:~:text=Both%20are%20wonderful%20mindfulness%20practices,looking%20to%20improve%20their%20breathing.

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