I’m working alone today, flying solo. I cut this card from the Stop Doing Dumb Things deck and I’m enjoying thinking about and practicing, silence. As someone with talkative tendencies, I’m a little outside my comfort zone.

Awkward Silence

In the corporate world you often hear the words ‘any questions?’ at the end of a talk or presentation. Occasionally the words get asked along the way, but overwhelmingly they come at the end of the bombardment, sorry, I mean presentation. And often what follows is this:


Any Questions + Tumbleweed = Awkward Silence.

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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Sometimes you find yourself sitting in a meeting and there’s no silence. Far from it. Sometimes everyone has an opinion and they’re falling over themselves to voice it. No one is really listening, everyone is too busy thinking about the smart, witty, insightful thing they are about to say.

In these conditions, just as nature abhors a vacuum so the workplace abhors silence.

I'm not listening

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Golden Silence

This seems to me the rarest variety of silence, hence its name I guess. Golden silence is wonderful quiet time, spent alone or together, when no one feels in any rush to fill the gap. It’s not awkward because there’s no pressure to conform to any expectations. Time to think, time to be.

Golden Silence

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Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Silence”

  1. If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest – he has a chapter on optimum class sizes for interactions which translates nicely to work events I would have thought. But we don’t tend to take that into account when we structure our events.

    And yes, proper silence is a thing of great beauty. Isn’t there a sort of saying that you know when you are really close to somebody, when you can sit in companionable silence together (which ties in nicely with your lunchtime blog!)

    1. Thanks for the tip off Julia. I struggle a bit with Gladwell’s writing style but I will take a look. A lot of the work I do involves facilitating smaller conversations from bigger groups, and I agree, most don’t factor this kind of thing in when designing events – which is why you so often see heads nodding in bigger groups/audiences, as people struggle to stay awake 🙂

      I hadn’t thought about the link to lunch time – like it.

      Cheers – D

  2. Among all the cats and giant marshmallows on Instagram, I just found this, attributed to the late Stephen Covey:

    ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand,. Most people listen with the intent to reply.’

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