Have you ever noticed, after making a quick response to someone, there are times when you wish you had simply kept your mouth shut ?
The funny thing is that we can create such breakdowns in our communication with a quick response—even though that breakdown is rarely our intention. Because I’ve had to train myself to interrupt my own instinct for a quick response, I’ve had the chance to learn some very useful things about the power of silence.
When I found myself feeling pretty silent on Monday, when I usually post this blog, it occurred to me that there could be a great opportunity here for me to explore the upside of silence in an illuminating way. Once I committed to wait for it, even if it took several days, this blog practically wrote itself this morning.
Here are the main things I’ve learned about the power of silence:
The instinct for a quick response
Those of us who are “quick” are usually pretty handy with a response to just about everything that comes our way. One of my coaches reminded me one day, when I was quickly responding to a question of hers that really required more thought, “Hey—this isn’t a game show. There are no big prizes for a quick response here. Why not give yourself a little more time to consider how you feel about this.”
Her comment about game shows really stuck with me. Pretty soon I was using it on myself. It has helped me more times than I can count to take the time to be silent and consider my options before blurting out some quick response.
Hey. This isn’t a game show. Take your time here.
A strategy for careful
On the other hand, those folks who tend to be more “careful” have a little easier time with staying silent until they’ve considered their response. My late father-in-law, Al Beatty, was a master at this.
He told me once, “When something unpleasant happens, do nothing. Just wait a few days and see what happens next: either the problem will resolve itself without any effort on your part, or you’ll discover that you need to step in and take action. Either way, you’ll know what you’re walking into. The delay will allow most things to sort themselves out without any help from you—and if you need to step in, you’ll have the presence of mind to handle the situation effectively.”
Dad was a master of harnessing the power of silence–I I learned a lot from watching him. Having the benefit of being married to his son for 23 years has helped me fine tune these strategies, since Chuck, too, is a master of their power.
Here are my top three insights about silence:
- Silence allows you to gather your thoughts to make the most effective response. It allows you to tap into your inner store of knowledge like nothing else can.
- Silence allows you to really listen to another person and discover what they actually need. This is the secret of superstar sales people and networkers. Silence actually allows you to make more money!
- Life isn’t a game show—you won’t be kicked off the island for taking the time you need to consider what’s most effective for you. No matter what you see on TV.
On Monday, it seemed as if I had nothing to say in this blog. Then I trusted the power of silence and discovered that talking about it was the most powerful thing I could do.
This week, I hope you will trust the instinct for silence in yourself. See what impact it has on your conversations at work and at home—and share your thoughts here when you’re ready.