…many societies, including traditional Chinese society and I would argue, many First Nations societies see humans as essentially good and capable and trustworthy. If you can view humans like this, then you can see a room full of people as a room full of potential, and an organization of people is one essentially capable of doing good in the world. All you have to do is trust these inherent capacities.
This control issue crops up everywhere. If humans are essentially untrustworthy then we need laws to keep the peace and agendas to keep them on topic. We need rules, regulations, measurements, standards and assessment and evaluation criteria that judge the largely untrustworthy human against the perfect ideal, in order to see how badly they failed to achieve perfection.
For the last several months, I’ve felt like opening a meeting by speaking about its potential. Not in some anodyne, “let’s have a great meeting way” but with genuine reverence. For some reason, I’ve not acted on that impulse.. yet it feels important to me.
In part, I think one reason that the real potential of meetings is not realised is that there is something scary about it. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the notion of silence in meetings. I’ve found silences increasingly powerful points in meetings I’ve been facilitating. These are often referred to as awkward silences – as if the awkwardness lies in the silence and not in the people in the room. What makes us awkward during silence? There are a few answers that come to mind, but I wonder if part of the discomfort is some half-felt sense of the great possibility of what might come to fill the silence?
I’m a big fan of Chris, and one of many things I’ve learnt from him is the notion of faciliation as a practice – something you are always practciing, never perfecting. And I’ve been practicing silence, gradually learning to be more comfortable sitting through silence. When you’re the faciliator, this can be a fun assignment, as the longer the silence, the more gazes you might find coming your way, sometimes appearing to implore you to say something. Nearly always, when I resist that urge to fill the void, someone else in the meeting – often someone who has not yet said much – finally speaks up. And what they say is often more useful and powerful than what I might have said to relieve my and/or other people’s discomfort. I think in moments like that, we may be touching on some of the deeper power we have as people working together, something that goes a little further than the mere exchange of thoughts and ideas.