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Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Employing the unintuitive power of silence, stillness, and rest.

Having labored in New York City for a long time, I remember working with an organization that helps religious groups in poor areas come together to change their neighborhoods for good. I will never forget one of the meetings with the elected officials of our area. Instead of being allowed to talk on and on about whatever they wanted to, politicians were asked if they would support the issue we were working on within a two-minute time limit.

If the speaker said "yes" to the issue we were supporting, thunderous and good-natured applause came from the 500 people we promised beforehand would be there. But if the speaker said "no," we had been trained to sit in total silence. No boos, no movement, just thunderous silence. This silence was one of the most powerful things I had ever experienced in a community meeting. The silence so disconcerted one politician, that after he said "no," he continued to perspire and equivocate on the platform as he saw the silent ...

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