Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quiet, Please!

So the last time I was in school, I learned things - many of which turned out to be useful - and I thought thoughts - some of which turned out to be intelligent. 

I'm doing both of those now, too, but what's interesting to me is that the times I'm learning the most - the times when I swear I can actually hear my mind expand and feel the rush of air and light through the newly opened space - are the times we pause for reflection.

The "Moment of Silence" turns out to be a teaching tool, one way of breaking up a long lecture into 15-minute chunks to keep the students involved.  I understand this principle: When someone expects one of my clients to fill an hour at a conference I tell them they're going to get a 20-minute speech followed by as much Q&A as the room wants. No way I'd let someone talk for any longer than that!

Once, early in my career, I had to write a two-hour speech for a famously grumpy executive to deliver in Japan.  We questioned, we even protested, but the organizers insisted it was a cultural thing: the Japanese audience would be highly offended if he spoke for even a minute less.  Two hours of simultaneous translation later, my famously grumpy executive and his unfailingly polite audience were all sick of the sound of his voice.  I've had a 15- or 20-minute limit ever since, and nobody's culture seems offended by it.  (My personal culture is most offended by speakers who talk too long.  But I digress.)

So the Moment of Silence.  It serves a mechanical purpose in the classroom.  And at yesterday's class it also helped me, somewhat miraculously, synthesize what I'm learning with why I'm learning it.  It allowed me to remind myself of my strengths, which I don't often do.

Now, I'm used to doing a lot of stuff that doesn't directly look like work.  I believe it's important for my creative process, and often I'm right.  When I need an idea, I'll do some background reading on the subject I'm tackling and then go do something else, like take a walk, and let the ideas ferment in my head before I sit down to write.  But fermenting is not the same as reflecting.  In the fermenting process I am deliberately NOT thinking directly about a thing; the Moment of Silence offers time to confront a question head-on.

So as of today, there's a new policy here at Bennett Ink: the daily Moment of Silence.  I have a pile of things I've set aside to think about - including but not limited to this - but I've been too busy "doing" to think.  Now I see that thinking is an important thing to do, all on its own.

Are you thinking about anything in a new way - or for the first time?  How is it helping you?

5 comments:

lg0613 said...

Hi there,
I totally agree--a moment of slience is so helpful and really does give everyone including the trainer a break to collect their thoughts about what was discussed.
I love that you have now made this something you will do on a daily basis....I can only imagine how you will feel.
I'd say I'd also use this when having active discourse with someone....taking time to really absorb what they are saying. Probably would make the discourse not be as long either!
Laura Scala

babydramatic said...

I first learned about the uses of silence when I facilitated support groups. The person who trained me to do this said that if no one in the group had anything to say, I should not jump in and feel I had to say something, but should just let the silence be, that eventually someone would speak.

I sing in a Lutheran church, and during the service there are moments for prayer and reflection which I find restorative.

As to thinking about things in a new way, I have really taken to heart a sermon I heard recently about creativity and chaos and have decided it is ok to let things be a little chaotic, which will make me more creative and my life more interesting.

Kiki Mulliner said...

My boss has incorporated this into his complex conversations. He often pauses and says, "I just need a moment." You can see the wheels turning as he reflects on what is going on, what has gone on, and where he wants to go. It is very effective.

I look forward to insights as you go forward with this practice!

Melissa said...

I love that you are connecting this not just as a training method, but as part of your life. As someone who always intends to start meditating, to just try and be silent and still and stop the constant go-go-go, do-everything chaos of life for even a few minutes to see how that affects how I feel and what I think afterward, I think that is a great idea. I think making that practice part of your non-work life can only help make it a more natural feature of your training. It won't feel as foreign or as uncomfortable.

frontrangetrainer said...

I too have been using this practice more and more in my daily interactions. When in conversation, I like to see how long of an actively engaged pause I can create without it seeming strange to the other person. This often gives the other person a chance to continue and further develop their train of thought.

This idea was further reinforced in a course I just took where we did an "active listening" exercise in pairs. I had a pretty incredible realization! As I was speaking to my partner, uninterrupted, on a topic that I had been thinking a lot about, I was actually able to come to some new conclusions for myself. This, talking with someone that I met only a few hours beforehand. Pretty powerful stuff!