Silent Night

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Leonardo da Vinci

They say words have power, however, sometimes the power is in silence.

Listening without speaking has become a rarity. We love to hear ourselves talk, and we (mistakenly, in my opinion) feel speaking shows our involvement, interest, and intelligence. Sometimes we can’t stop ourselves from blurting out a clever quip … often at the cost of another’s feelings or at the risk of appearing crass or uninformed.

Here are a couple of ways to use silence as the powerful tool it is:

~Getting squared away – whether in a group with others or just being by yourself at the beginning of your day, spend a few moments alone, meditating, or taking a break from a busy day. Being still and silent grounds us in energy and in our power.

~Increasing trust – trust is the cornerstone of friendships. To build trust, we must listen. Sometimes we see talking as a way to make others feel comfortable, but that’s a fallacy. Too much talking makes others feel you’re not looking out for them or their interests and therefore not as trustworthy as you might otherwise be. Ask questions, sure, but keep them short and let there be plenty of space for the answers. Be other focused.

~Making others feel powerful – when you listen to hear as opposed to listening to respond, the person speaking feels powerful and connected and, as stated above, trusted. When you ask a question and then just shut the heck up, the speaker feels important, knowing you truly want his/her opinion, information, or experience. Have you ever had someone ask you a question and then launch into their own answer over-talking or shutting you out completely? Remember how that feels and be sure not to be that person.

~Making room for the answer – the sooner you’re quiet, the sooner you get the answer, information, or solutions that you seek. Ask your question and then stop. The stopping part is difficult for many people.

Look around. Be aware of who is consistently quiet in your group. There are always the same few individuals who do way more listening than talking. Two things become evident about these folks: first, they are generally well liked and secondly, when they do speak, everyone’s attention is instantly focused on them. People are curious about how these people think and what they care about. These quiet individuals are respected simply because they don’t feel the need to be talking all the time.

There’s lots of noise out there these days. I’m sure you could identify an entire cadre of punsters and talking heads that do little more than irritate a peaceful silence.

While I’m not suggesting a curtailment of interesting engagement, jibber jabber, as I call it, talking for the sake of talking or to bridge a perceived uncomfortable silence, doesn’t inform or enhance any interaction.

Finally, a word about individuals who feel extremely uncomfortable with a gap in the conversation or when one subject is talked out and another subject hasn’t arrived yet: Don’t put your discomfort with silence on the group or anyone. Silence in a group is an excellent time to be aware of your surroundings and make observations about who you’re with.