By Cynthia Krosky, CSP, LCSW

Have you ever used silence to make a point? Then you understand how very powerful this communication tool can be. Silence gives many messages. It can shed light or place a veil of darkness on a conversation. Being able to use the sound of silence is one of the greatest conversational arts. Our ability to be quiet may confirm that we are intensely interested in what is being said. It can also show that we have great integrity and will not be brought into conversations that could be harmful. It has been said, that the more people talk, the less they tell the truth.
leadership training
Ben Franklin said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still is to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Silence allows us to keep a secret, to serve as a peacemaker, and to learn the deeper meaning about what is being said.

Have you ever been in a conversation, where all you were waiting for was for the speaker to pause, so that you could interject your reply? Instead of allowing ourselves to pause and absorb what has been said we start preparing how we want to vocalize our thoughts as soon as the speaker stops talking. Culture often influences our unintentional desire to jump in as soon as there is a lull in the conversation. Being comfortable with silence takes practice and self-control.

“Most of us know how to say nothing; few of us know when to let our silence speak louder.” C. Krosky

Some people may have grown up with the use of sounds like ah’s or um’s to sort of hold their place in a conversation – like an oral bookmark that holds their place in a conversation so that the listener won’t jump in. (Unfortunately some people who speak from a platform or before a meeting forget they have the floor and the ah’s and um’s are unnecessary as they already have the floor). Realize that there will always be some people who misunderstood or who misinterpret our silence. Some people will take our pause as a time to jump into the conversation by engaging their mouth. As a leader, we need to be prepared to help others learn how powerful silence can be in a conversation. For when we do speak our brains should be fully engaged so that our words are clear and easily understood. Otherwise our words are only noise pollution. Remember that effective leaders spend 70% of their time listening and only 30% of their time talking.

Silence is a powerful sword. We can use silence to increase our understanding and learn more about the people around us. When used out of love, it can show that we care deeply enough to listen with the intent to understand and need to absorb what was said before we reply. One gaze into the eyes of someone we love can speak more deeply to the heart than all the poetic words in the world. In this way our silence creates a bond and touches a person more intensely than the words we speak. However, the other side or the silence sword can cut through the air when our intent is to hurt or let someone know we are displeased. Dead silence can cause a conversation to feel heavy, as the speaker may not know if they were heard or understood. The art of silence is learned. When we are accustom to noise, we may mistake silence for a lack of understanding instead of the depth of understanding it reveals. For example, comedians are accustomed to laughter and many comedians will hit around 8 laughs a minute. Successful comedians know that if their audience is silent they have still hit their mark, because the silence speaks louder than the laughter. How loud is your silence speaking with the people you lead? Is your silence allowing you to hit your mark and if not what can you do to better understand and to be understood?

“Really successful people have the ability to practice effective silence.” C. Krosky

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