Using silence as a communication tool
Have you ever heard the expression “You have two ears and only one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak”? What about “Silence is gold”? It doesn’t matter if you have never heard these expressions, you will still be able to take advantage of this under-utilized ability.
Chances are, you have participated in meetings or conversations where people talked, and talked, and talked for no apparent reason only to show-off in front of colleagues or their boss. When you sit back and listen, you often notice that despite the noise, the conversation isn’t moving forward. In these instances, people are concerned with demonstrating something (their knowledge, their communication ability, their decision-making power, etc.) rather than really communicating. Most of the time people talk too much. Way too much.
Over the years I have found that using silence is very useful. Contrary to what a former boss told me, being reserved in a meeting and participating when necessary is much better than talking all the time in order to get noticed. If the only way for you to get noticed in your organization is by talking a lot during meetings, you are in trouble. I would think that conversations are probably as shallow as the level of competence of the management team – but I digress.
Many people assume that communicating is simply talking nonstop. They are not aware of how they are being received and perceived by others. Using silence on the other hand is very useful. As a communication tool, silence provides a few interesting benefits:
- it allows you to actually listen to other people’s perspective;
- it lets your colleagues complete their thoughts without rushing;
- it provides space for people to express their opinions or feelings;
- it makes people feel their perspective is valued;
- it allows you to organize your thoughts and emphasize one point or another;
- it builds anticipation in your audience and allows them to follow your message;
- it leaves room in the conversation to allow people to share something they might want to tell you but weren’t quite ready to do so;
- during negotiation, it adds a little pressure on the other person to possibly offer a better deal;
- and as a bonus, it improves people perception of you – you no longer appear self-centered and in need of visibility.
When your ego and your need for power drive your conversation, you are certainly missing out on critical pieces of information. Humility and serenity will increase your communication ability. If you are able to develop the ability to remain silent for a certain amount of time in a conversation, you will quickly discover the benefits.