While there is so much stress(ful!) on effective communication, the art of small talk and so much around “TALKING”, I decided to give communication a break in my entrepreneurship offline class (emphasising on “offline” as these days we need to be clear whether it was an online or an offline session as online sessions, many a time goes on muted silence naturally!)

Yet another class, students walk in, flop on to their seats, some tired, some smiling, some blank in their expressions, some curious to know what is in store for the class… they settle in, I make an abrupt announcement, “No class today but an activity”….lots of smiles, energy rebooted, I was accepted as their friend again!

The activity goes like this, they work in groups (more smiley faces as they perceive this as an opportunity to catch up on their music bands, instagram stories et al which was just done a few hours before!). The activity is around combining any two products/services and come up with an innovative one using tons of creativity (Creativity & Innovation are two terms that cannot be separated from the umbilical cord of Entrepreneurship!!) Again, murmurs start with excitement, some are already processing it really fast, some want to finish their business ideation even before the group comes together…..the noise level starts rising slowly….ALAS, I have an important announcement to make…..

“Class/Students, this activity will be done in complete silence, which means, you cannot talk to each other, no whispers, you may use sign language, you can draw but you cannot write sentences or words”. There was indeed a stunned silence, I took the opportunity very quickly, thanked them profusely for following my instructions so instantly and declared they have 30 minutes to complete this activity (in true Master Chef Style!!!).

Next 30 minutes, I really wished I could view record the whole “silent whispers”, the artist in each one of them came alive, expressions galore, dumb charades – live in action. Some were at their wits end when the other person misunderstood a washing machine as bath soap, wheel as a truck, food as restaurant….but they just did not give up, they actually found it really interesting, fun and took it as a true challenge! We reached the 25th minute when I declared that now they can talk/discuss verbally….Phew….what a relief for some of them, but some teams preferred the silent way of working as they felt the pace of their work was really good when they was no verbal exchange….some reigned in chaos when they started to talk, some hilarious outbursts when they realised what the team members were actually trying to convey.

Each team made a quick oral presentation of their ideas and drew their business ideas on our simple black board….unheard products….Microwave with wheels, Masks for the speech disabled, Key chain with pepper spray and knife, Thrift store with a delivery app, Bluetooth attached hoodies…..what not!

Other teams took this opportunity to ask some sensible and not many sensible ones too (Motto – To have fun) but the outcome was incredible in terms of learning, understanding the importance of communication and how verbal communication can fail too, sometimes just plain listening without interruption helps, whole idea of communication took a new meaning after this activity and it did send a few thinking waves as even after a year, the students recollect the activity so well including everyone’s business ideas! Somewhere we hit the right CHORD indeed! This activity has become a part and parcel of my learning process with my students year on year….I went back to my staff room carrying lots of funny memories and I am quite sure the students did too!

Jayanthi Jayaraman

About the Author

Teaching Faculty – Entrepreneurship
Transitioned smoothly from a corporate set up to a home maker to a teaching faculty (no withdrawal symptoms experienced at any stage!). Seasonal hobbies varying from reading, doodling, swimming, playing squash.

One thought on “THE ART OF SILENCE

  1. An incredible pantomime activity Jayanthi and loved the quirky and obscure outcomes. I am marvelling at the facilitator who is becoming more and more ingenious and brimming with ideas 💡 yes, creative and innovative avant-garde!!!
    Is this copyrighted J, you already have someone seeking permission to use the idea🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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