If you want to be a communication superhero, s-h-h-h-h!
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“Speech is silver, Silence is golden.” (Swiss proverb)
If you’ve been to even one communication seminar, you have enough tools to last you a lifetime.
Paraphrasing, open-ended questions, and probing questions on the listening side; saying what’s so without blame or judgment, using “I” statements, and stating feelings on the speaking side. The more of these excellent skills you take in, the more difficult it can be to work them into your repertoire.
Wouldn’t it be great If doing just one thing could dramatically improve every conversation you’re in?
One of them can: Silence.
Silence is how you give someone the gift of your attention.
And your attention is what everyone is vying for. At the gym this morning, I claimed the exercise bike right in front of a TV playing CNN. I was astonished at the amount of visual stimulation competing for my attention. There were closed captions, constantly changing headlines at the bottom of the screen, a shifting video background behind the two anchors, the excruciatingly lovely color coordination of set, clothing, headlines and background, and the director’s shifting camera angles. It was an extravaganza of data points, so many I didn’t know which to pay attention to.
So, I ignored them all.
All that stimulation was designed to capture my attention, but I it didn’t work. Nothing stood out. Nothing cut through the clutter. Worst of all, I can’t tell you what I thought about it. And that’s what makes silence so powerful: It connects us with ourselves, with what we really think. It connects your client with themselves. You with your self. It’s rare anymore to build this kind of reflective time in.
As a consequence, we get more and more data, with less and less meaning. I recommend bucking that trend.
When you’re moving really fast, trying to impress with your brilliance, your commitment, your credibility, stop. Stop and let stillness reign: For a moment, be silent. Give someone the gift of your attention and see where that leads.
Here’s what I think silence can do for you:
- Cut through the clutter
- Give you and your client time to listen to what they just said
- Give you and your client time to listen to what you just said
- Give you both time to think
- Open the door for the other listening skills you learned in those workshops.
- Calm an anxious situation.
- Slightly increase the pause between listening to another and responding to them. Then increase it some more.
- Speak more slowly than the person you’re talking to. This increases the silence between words, sentences, paragraphs, thoughts.
- Take notes and verify you got it right with your partner
- Look thoughtful and interested
Start even smaller:
- Schedule the week you’ll commit to more silence, then for get about it until the appointed time.
- Put a blank card in your portfolio or notebook to remind you of silence.
- When you are ready, commit to 3 moments of conscious silence in a conversation you are already comfortable with. ( If you like what happens, you can expand your time.)
Let me know how it goes. As always, comments are open on the blog.
Until next week,