Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Quaker Process and the Introvert

I am entirely too tired to stay up and write this now, but I don't wanna forget. And now I have stayed up an hour later than I was planning on doing.

I have been talking with a friend of mine lately about Quakerism, Quaker decision making, the format of business meetings etc.

I read Beyond Majority Rule as part of my quakerism 101 class and I have been to one monthly business meeting, and two Northern Yearly Meetings so I am an expert. Ha Ha Ha.

Anyway, the main ideas behind the Quaker process include NOT making decisions based on a vote. Consensus is the key. This consensus is reached through a sometimes lengthy group process in which a clerk leads a group of members/attenders through a stated agenda.

Folks are not supposed to speak unless they have something really important or "spirit led" to add-- and once something has been said other people don't need to repeat it.

The clerk is the one to guide all discussion and mediates where things are going. The clerk is also responsible to say when the group has reached consensus and state what he/she feels the agreed upon course of action is. If someone feels that consensus has not been reached they can voice their dissent.

Behind all of this is the assumption that we all have the divine within us and that we are all working toward the greater good of the meeting.

I realized that part of the reason I am fond of Quaker process is because it feels similar to how Sam and I-- introverts supreme-- solve problems and handle conflicts.

I don't mean to say that Sam and I are holier-than-thou pious types who act according to some perfect plan. Just that our "arguments" look and sound very different than those of the extroverts we know. Quieter. Almost imperceptible to the outside observer.

What is amazing to me in both the larger Quaker meetings and the smaller spousal ones is how often silent reflection, thoughtful listening to someone outside of yourself and sufficient time can create a solution that no one could have conceived on their own prior to said meeting/discussion.

The idealized Quaker meeting for business strikes me as one that a group of introverts would love.

I'm sure I've blogged before about the management groups where group A was made up of extroverts and group B was made up of introverts. The groups were given the same task to complete in different rooms.

When the researchers came back to check on the groups, the introverts had completed the project and were all sitting around reading the books they brought with them. The extroverts were still arguing about how to organize things and chatting about this and that. Making connections. Needing to be heard.

Researchers found that behavior of introverts in meetings was very directed. Introverts had no interest in drawing out the process because being in the large group was not an energizing experience for them. They wanted things done as quickly as possible. They tended to take charge, cut down on off-topic chatter and nail the group down to a solution.

When business meetings go long. Very very very long I sometimes wonder if it is as a result of people trying to work against temperament. After all, the majority of people self-select as extroverts.

A particularly extroverted friend of mine attended a Quaker meeting once or twice and found the group to be unwelcoming. I attended the same group and found them quite welcoming. When I was ready to be welcomed. I like a long, slow introduction. I like the chance to blend in for a while and see what is happening before I engage people.

Is it easier for introverts to enter into and function in the Quaker community?


Blogger Bookdreamer said...

I would say that Quakers are tailored made for introverts! See my latest post to see why

12:25 AM  
Blogger Bookdreamer said...

oops for some reason your settings don't allow me to link from my quaker blog which is the one that I was signposting you too


12:27 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

I agree with you that Quakerism can be a haven for introverts. I certainly appreciate the way meeting for business is much slower but more focused than meetings at work. We have the space to really hear what each person is saying. Quieter folks don't get crowded out the way they can in other settings.

I think it is important to distinguish between consensus and unity. Consensus is the collective decision of a group of people, taking into account every person's desires and opinions. Unity is the collective discernment of God's will, taking into account the measure of Light that each person present can shed on the decision.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

7:16 AM  

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