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The Power of Quiet Reflection in Meetings

What percentage of your average meeting allows time for quiet reflection?

Based on the hundreds of hours of meetings I have observed I would guess the answer would be very little. But do you ever stop to think about how including some short pauses for ‘thinking time’ might change both the dynamic of your meetings and the quality of discussions that take place?

You are very likely to have some people in your team who work best when they have a short amount of time to gather their thoughts before sharing their ideas more widely with a group.    Equally, you might have people who tend to do their thinking out loud and are quick to contribute to discussions. You might feel this group will just be frustrated with quiet time. But try looking at things from a different angle

If a few people leap in to share their thoughts and ideas, it can very quickly shape the direction of the conversation. The chance to hear from everyone is missed, as is the opportunity to capitalise on the collective intelligence of the group.

Some of those people who speak up quickly might also find they say something but without having fully formed their view or opinion. When we have time to think about what we want to say before we say it, our words can be more meaningful and intentional. Giving people as little as 1 minute to think through their ideas can reap benefits.  

One activity I like to do with people is to have them take a minute and write down some ideas.  I’ve used this at the very beginning of a meeting when we’re still gathering, and also during a meeting when the group is going through an agenda item and I want to get ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.

When you tell people they will have a minute to think about something it always surprises me to see how intently they focus on that task.  There is something powerful about taking a short break from talking in order to focus on writing down your thoughts.  One person commented after a recent session ‘if you hadn’t given us that thinking time I would never have come up with that idea’

This might sound like an obvious thing to do but try it the next time you are in a meeting and let me know how you get on.

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