When it’s just you, only one person has to calm down for there to be quiet. In a group, silence is hard-established — and it only takes one person to break it.
Noise is infectious. Quiet is not. The silent watcher at the meeting is more likely to be dubbed disengaged than attentive, reclusive than focused. It’s easier to start yelling than to sit and endure the tension. When everyone is talking, at least everyone is doing the same thing — even if no one can understand anyone anymore.
When we come together, so do our differing priorities, agendas, and incentives. A gigantic cloud of human emotion forms in the room. It’s easy to get lost in the fog. An elderly person’s main focus is to take care of their ailing partner. A younger family member wants to engage in intellectual discussions. The host is trying to keep everyone fed and happy.
In the ongoing kerfuffle, compromises must be made. We can either let go of our ego and board someone else’s ship, hoping to get everyone into the same boat, or we can sit back, relax, and watch in silence. It won’t solve every conflict immediately, but who knows? At least on some days, it might get everyone to re-center — and when groups begin anew from calm, that’s when magic happens.