Making Space for the Quiet Voices
Excitement filled the meeting room as ideas were bounced back and forth like ping-pong balls. The chair of the meeting was as enthusiastic as the participants, noting ideas and responding with new ideas elicited by the lively dialogue. The project began taking shape, and it was clear that everyone was looking forward to the implementation.
There was one person in the room who was also engaged with the process. When called upon to share an idea, the person paused. Before he could answer, the chair said, "We'll get back to you" and called on the next person ready to share.
As an observer in the room (I am one of the leaders of this middle school youth group at my home congregation), I called a time out: "I want to make a process observation," I told the group. "And don't feel bad, because this is something I say to the grown-up leaders that I work with, too. It's really important that we make space for people who need a little time to process and answer. They need a quiet pause to gather their thoughts before they are able to speak. Let's make sure we give them a chance to share their ideas."
Although I am an extrovert and love that kind of high-energy exchange of ideas, I've learned from experience that some of the best ideas and reflections come from the introverts or the people who might be at the margins of the conversation because of age or culture. I invite other extroverts to try the practice outlined in the video to the right (from Erik Walker Wikstrom's book Serving with Grace: Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice).