Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lessons Learned: Allow Uncomfortable Silence

In every RAPP session there is a large or small group discussion that takes place. Commonly during these discussions there will be a moment of awkward silence shared within the group. Moments like these tend to be prominent within smaller groups. Facilitators grapple with this tension, often accepting this silence as a reflection of failed leadership. We might ask ourselves, “Was this discussion a good idea?” “Did I explain the prompt properly?” “What should I do to get them talking?” Motivating conversation can be an appropriate route to take, but we should not discredit the option of allowing periods of silence.

There are many benefits to having uncomfortable silence. In this silence, group participants are afforded an opportunity to collect their thoughts during an otherwise fast paced conversation. Silence encourages participants to focus on each other’s facial expressions and body movements that contribute to the mood of the conversation. Because group silence is a cooperative phenomenon, it unconsciously builds acquaintanceship. The group further builds acquaintanceship by working together to overcome silence. Group silence is seldom supported in daily life. Allowing silence to transpire within a group may leave a positive impression on your participants’ attitude toward this experience.


Lessons Learned is a RAPP Blog initiative intended for folks who hold formal leadership positions in RAPP programs to share what they're learning through their process

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