One of the most powerful communication skills you can harness is the power of silence. Professional salespeople have known the power of silence for years, with silence being the magic ingredient to closing sales. The same is true in negotiation and leadership. When someone is voicing a complaint or expressing an opinion, silence on your part helps send the message that you’re listening and deliberating. When you’re silent, you’re less likely to trigger someone’s hot buttons, or inadvertently escalate an existing conflict.
The next time you’re in a meeting, watch the people in the room. Look for the individual who is clearly engaged and paying attention, but remaining silent. When they do speak, you’ll be astounded at how much weight their opinion carries.
Most of us know how valuable silence is, but most of us really aren’t very good at it. Let’s face it, we have opinions we think people need to hear, observations we’re burning to share, and people who need to be enlightened with our perspectives on the world. The unfortunate truth, though, is that most people aren’t nearly as interested in hearing what we have to say as we would like them to be.
The power of silence is closely tied to the ability and willingness to listen. One of the not-so-side benefits of being a good listener, is that people perceive you as more competent. They also like you more. (After all, why wouldn’t they? It sends the signal that you share a common interest – them!).
Work on the assumption that, unless someone asks you, they really aren’t interested in what you have to say. You’re better off as a silent observer, listening, watching & learning. As Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character often said, “I don’t recall ever getting in trouble by keeping my mouth shut.”