Some children are keen to speak up in class, but amidst the cacophony of opinions and frantic hands in the air, they can often barely hear themselves think. Other children sit there quietly, weighing up the thoughts of their classmates and interjecting only when they have something truly beneficial to say.
We have one mouth and two ears, and, as the phrase goes, we should use them in that proportion. The problem is that our society values talk and scoffs at contemplation. The loudest get promoted, the most persistent win the arguments and the smooth talkers get the dates. Talk might be cheap, but it gets things done.
The question is whether silence might get them done better.
In many work and social situations, the benefits of silence are indisputable. In my quarterly musings on communication techniques, an amount of silence is a crucial ingredient for many of the techniques, and in this blog, I would like to outline five benefits of silence for developing effective professional relationships.
You consider the wider picture. Sentences rarely exist in isolation. People will start a story with one thought, but they may end on another thought entirely. When you give them the chance to tell the whole story (without interrupting), you will let them reach their desired conclusions by themselves. They will appreciate your silence – especially if they don’t quite know what they want to say.
You don’t overwhelm people. When a conversation is a high-speed tennis match of back and forth, there is little opportunity to actually understand where a chat is going. It can be quite overwhelming if people respond immediately with their thoughts, especially if you haven’t quite finished what you wanted to say. If I ever feel overwhelmed in a conversation, my first thought is to cut it short. Considered silences make communication richer and broaden its scope.
Your words have more authority. When you say 300% less words, they will be processed 300% more carefully. Our brains might be clever things, but if we give them less to contemplate, it is natural that they will think about things in that little bit more detail. Authoritative speakers weigh the impact of their words carefully, and the listener will take them that little bit more seriously.
You give yourself time to think. If someone knows that they are entering into a conversation with a thoughtful speaker, they will not feel awkward with the silences. They know that you are thinking about what they are saying and will wait for your answer. This is hugely beneficial for the “thinkers” among us as it gives us those crucial extra seconds to come up with our conclusions.
Comfortable silences breed silence. If you are at ease with pauses for thought in the conversation, it is likely that your conversation partner will feel the same. No conversation should be a 100mph affair, and encouraging your partner to think about what they say next can only be beneficial for you. It is hard work filtering the verbal diarrhea of a poor communicator – it is best they do that themselves before they speak.
These are just a few of the benefits. What does silence mean for you? Find out what the Best communicators are doing? Click here to get