Recently I read an anecdote about the power of silence. It described an event with thousands of people crowded into one room, with everyone chatting at once and no one paying attention to the individuals speaking at the front of the room.
Three speakers failed to get the attention of the crowd – until, at last, one speaker simply stood in silence in front of the microphone. Soon after, all eyes were on him and you could hear a pin drop in the room.
He achieved this using no words at all.
Immediately it reminded me of a keynote speaker at a conference I had attended a few weeks earlier. He was introduced by the Master of Ceremony and once the introduction was complete, the keynote speaker started his way up to the podium. He was already all mic’d up and started speaking before he even reached the lectern.
Results: No one was ready and missed his first comments.
By the time he got to the lectern, he was well within his presentation. It felt like we had missed the beginning of a movie and then were trying to figure out what’s happening. Had he waited to reach the lectern, paused, looked at the 4 corners of the room to make sure he was connecting with everyone, and then began to speak, it would have made a world of difference.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recover.
He had failed to get everyone’s attention by not using silence to create anticipation, and not waiting for everyone’s eyes to be on him, before he began to deliver his message.
This story inspired me to think that silence speaks volumes, and of the great value of silence in business, and what using silence can accomplish to:
- capture the attention of a crowd
- demonstrate respect
- speak using other forms of non-verbal communication
- help you be the most articulate you can be
In this post, we’ll cover a few of the many ways silence speaks volumes, and why you need to master it to get heard.
Silence Speaks Volumes: Listen Up!
In a conversation, sometimes the most important thing you can contribute is simply listening.
To remain silent and listen may seem like no contribution at all, but it takes effort to be fully present in a conversation – and the rewards pay off.
Some people may have the “gift of the gab” but ultimately, being a skilled listener takes equal or more attention to detail.
Listening is hard work that requires focus, practice, and patience. Apart from being the hallmark of a good conversationalist, the ability to really listen is invaluable.
- Listening at Level I
This is all about grabbing control of the conversation.
Person A: Where did you spend your last vacation?
Person B: I went to India.
Person A: I love India. The Taj Mahal is amazing – gigantic, beautiful. I have never experienced so much poverty and so much luxury at the same time. And we took a train; then we had a driver for part of our trip…
- Listening at Level II
This is a give and take – a two-way conversation.
Person A: Where did you go on vacation last summer?
Person B: I went to India.
Person A: What did you enjoy most about your trip?
Person B: The people!
- Listening at Level III
This is all about listening to the environment.
When you enter a room — what is the mood?
Or, when you enter a boardroom — do you sense tension? How do you adapt? Is the mood somber? What can you do to lighten things up? If the boardroom is quiet, it would never occur to you to speak loudly.
Silence Speaks Volumes: Pay Attention
What can you expect to learn from another individual, whether a mentor, colleague, superior, or friend, if you constantly feel the need to assert your own opinion?
- In a professional setting with new or unfamiliar information, keep your ears open constantly. By taking in the most knowledge as possible from others, you will continue to learn and grow — which will lead to upward mobility in your career.
- Show the utmost respect to the person you are conversing with by silencing your other conversations. Unless absolutely necessary, take your cell phone off the table during meetings. When someone comes to your office to talk, darken your computer screen or close your laptop. This will help you focus on the individual and will make your meetings more efficient, too.
Silence Speaks Volumes: Choose Your Words
Never be afraid of letting a conversation hang in brief silence before answering a question or responding to a comment. In fact, you should get used to it!
- Before immediately jumping to respond to a question or comment, take a moment to reflect on your words. Not only will this help you to craft a more articulate response, it will also incite the attention of others. People will begin to notice that you take time, energy, and thought into answering a question — and that you are not simply blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind.
- This is an especially important tip during a job interview or a first-time meeting with a client. It creates a positive first impression that you are a thoughtful, conscious individual. This first impression will inform your professional relationships and will work to your advantage.
Silence Speaks Volumes: Body Language
Silence speaks for itself.
When you are silent, in no way does it mean you are not communicating. The next time you are not talking, pay close attention to how you may be speaking without words.
- Body language, even when standing still, says a lot about you and your attitude. Are you standing with slouched shoulders, arms crossed, or fidgeting? If so, others may perceive you as bored or apathetic. Or, is your posture aligned, your shoulders back, and hands on your hips or at your sides? This suggests you are confident, prepared, and alert.
- When listening to someone, eye contact is key to let that person know that you are interested in and engaged with what they are saying. If you are truly listening but your eyes are wandering around the room, the speaker might suspect your indifference.
- Just like silence speaks volumes, your professional image speaks volumes about you too. If you do not take the time to polish your image by paying attention to dress codes, fit and cut of clothing, age-appropriate attire, and grooming, your image can silently override anything you have to say – no matter how articulate you are.
At Corporate Class, our expert facilitators provide in-person and live online leadership training that covers everything you need to know about mastering body language, communicating with confidence, nailing first impressions, leading with purpose, and more!