The meeting room was full of noise.
Silence looked in, but she knew silence would not be welcome.
She therefore waited quietly outside just in case silence was needed.
She was happy to join the meeting at any time, but silence was never invited in.
It was such a shame; if only noise would remember that if a little silence is sprinkled around the words, then everyone can be heard. The mistake that noise always makes is thinking that silence is nothing; that silence does not matter; or that silence is weak and does not belong in a room full of noise.
Silence however is the extraordinary space where noise is decoded. Silence is the pause where understanding becomes possible. Silence brings meaning to our words, because silence knows that words which are unheard carry no meaning; they are just empty syllables, propelled on the turbulent winds of noise, lost forever in the tumble of sounds.
Silences create the unseen ephemeral network that connects us and our words and through which wisdom is revealed. This is how people learn from each other and grow; it is how goodness can flourish, and how kindness finds a place to serve.
The silence we give to ourselves is never empty and is never without its unsaid purpose. It holds a mirror to our intentions; it allows our thoughts to breathe and offers the light into which our hopes and ideas may emerge.
The silence we give to each other is our personal, thoughtful gift of grace. Such silence becomes the shape of our generosity and in its touch this silence shows how much we care. Silence is the gift of respect that feels at home in every culture and translates into any language. Silence offers equal opportunity, and highlights inequality. Silence lifts the vulnerable and mutes the powerful.
Silence perfectly placed in a conversation is an acknowledgement of power shared, of pain felt and joy honoured. Silence is the mark of our courage to listen and the acceptance of our need to be heard. Silence perfectly placed in a conversation is also the shelter for our own vulnerable thoughts and ideas; a harbour for our reflections and protection from the storm of louder voices.
For every leader, and every person who calls and manages a meeting, our responsibility above all is to ensure that silence is welcome in our meeting rooms. Such quiet moments, these pauses, allow us to perfectly curate where silence may land for people to be heard, and for purpose to be fulfilled.
Silence wrapped as a pause amplifies everyone’s opportunity to be heard. In a world that can sometimes overwhelm us, or that can leave us feeling alone even in a crowded room, we make a powerful statement of a shared human experience when we offer to pause with each other. We all know how important this is because we all know how we feel when we are not heard.
It is never indulgent to listen, and it does not signal that we must agree, but the respect we show each other with silence offers opportunities for fresh insight, for understanding, for collaboration and for more secure and sustainable relationships.
Silence is a remarkable, free and replenishable resource. No budget is ever required for silence. When silence offers us so much, and asks so little of us in return, perhaps we should make more room for silence in our conversations and in our meetings.
Perhaps, as well, with silence to guide us, we might not need to use so many words.
And then perhaps the words we use might be chosen with more thought and care.
Take care. Paul xx