The Quiet Group

What do you do when no one responds?

Your group responds to every question you ask with a deafening silence. You ask a question, and after what seems like an eon, no one has ventured a response. This problem is especially prevalent in a new group or in the first few minutes of a discussion. Now what?

Don't rush to fill the void. Sometimes, in our desire to be a great leader, we see silence as our enemy. Realize that you're better prepared than anyone else and you know where the discussion is going. Your group members don't. Remember that you already know the answer, as well as the next question.

Be sure to allow enough time for people to gather their thoughts and formulate an answer, especially for the first few questions of the day. Realize that they need time to hear the question, understand it, process it, find the answer in their study guide, decide if it makes sense in relation to the rest of the discussion, and open their mouths. That can easily take 15 to 20 seconds-longer if you've asked a question that's not straight from the study guide. But to you, 20 seconds feels like an eternity!

Time the silence. Glance at your watch when you ask the question. Don't panic until at least 30 seconds have passed.

What usually happens is that after 5 to 10 seconds the uncomfortable leader will rephrase the question or give the answer. That fills the silence and relieves everyone's distress. Rather, try letting the silence reign. Sit comfortably. Glance at a few people, but don't open your mouth. Before you know it, the silence will make someone else uncomfortable and he or she will answer. Chances are, the discussion will be off and running.

Draw out quiet members. After you've allowed a reasonable silence, call on someone. Don't immediately zero in on the shiest ...

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