If you are a leader, it is never okay to not participate in a meeting. If you aren’t participating you are an observer. Observers don’t add value to a meeting.
I’ve heard that silence is consensus. That quote is a cop-out. The reason for a meeting is to make decisions as a group. If you aren’t making decisions as a group, why are you having a meeting? A meeting without participation tells people what you are going to do. You can tell people what you are going to do in an email. Allowing silence in your meeting says that is it okay to not participate but that is the wrong message.
Instead, assume that silence is disagreement. Announce at the meeting that anyone who does not share their ideas or opinions will be disagreeing with the ideas and opinions shared. When someone at the meeting doesn’t say anything, it is easy for them to disengage and not be accountable for participating.
When you ask why they disagree, you force an opinion. There is no reason to be defensive. Simply ask why they disagree. If they agree they will say so, but if they don’t agree they can’t say that they disagreed after the meeting.
Re-framing silence to mean disagreement changes the dynamic of an ineffective meeting to one that gains alignment.
What is your best meeting management tip?