Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! We spend a great deal of time learning leadership communication skills so that we can know what to say and how to say it. But the secret weapon to great communication is actually silence. In today’s podcast, we’re talking about how silence can be more powerful than words when to use silence, and the unintended consequences of avoiding silence.
Silence is a communication device, just like listening and talking, which, when used wisely, can increase your impact. At first, silence can feel very awkward. When you stay quiet, it creates space for other people to share their opinions and raise questions. Leaders who dominate conversations will suppress contrary views and limit creativity and innovation. Leveraging silence will make you a better, more impactful leader.
Q: What would utilizing silence look like for you, and how could you incorporate more silence in becoming a more impactful leader?
Why do leaders struggle with silence?
Arrogance: They feel they don’t need to listen to others because they know what is best.
Insecurity: Some leaders think that talking a lot makes you look confident. Really, the most confident leaders know they don’t have to talk all the time.
Q: How do you typically respond to silence? How much time do you spend talking instead of listening in a typical conversation? What strategies can you implement to use silence more often?
Benefits of Silence
Regulate Your Emotions
Silence allows us to regulate our emotions. Even a pause in the conversation will enable others to figure things out for themselves and reduce the likelihood that we will talk our way into trouble.
If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. To build trust, you need to listen.
Ask questions about the other person and listen. Learn about the other person. When the person realizes you are listening to them, they will listen to you.
Leaders empower others. They rarely tell people what to do. Great leaders provide others the opportunity to figure it out on their own. Sometimes people are looking for your feedback because they lack confidence. It could also be that they are overbearing leaders who don’t allow people to fail, so they come to you for approval on everything. It’s not uncommon for me to leave texts or voicemails from people until the end of the day. When I get back to them, they usually say, “Hey! Never mind, I figured it out.” Allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions will move forward their growth and professional development.
Q: Instead of telling someone what to do, what questions could you ask to help them discover their own answers?
Silence is an effective negotiating tool. Most people are uncomfortable with silence, so they jump in to close the gap with a comment or question when there is a lull. You can usually leverage this information to help you get the best outcome.
Two things to consider when using silence are:
1. Timing is everything!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a formula for this. This will be learned by doing it wrong and adjusting over time. Trust your gut!
Silence isn’t helpful when used as a weapon of anger or in a passive-aggressive way. Nothing good will come from this level of immaturity, and it will harm your relationships.
Practice silence in the next meeting you lead. Whenever you ask a question, don’t jump to move on if no one answers right away. Force yourself to wait until someone speaks, or about 15-20 seconds have elapsed. That extra time will help someone jump in and offer their perspective!
When using silence to build trust, you may have to encourage the other person to speak. If you try using silence and they choose not to speak, resist the urge to end the meeting or move on to the next topic. Instead, ask a question like:
Can you tell me more?
I’d like to hear more about X.
How do you feel about that solution?
Avoid asking yes or no questions and instead ask questions that open up conversation and allow you to listen more than you talk.
Sometimes people can rush to fill silence because they do not have regular periods of silence in their life. Their phone is constantly chiming, and the radio, TV, or a podcast is happening in the background. If you struggle to allow room for silence, try practicing silence at home or in the car. Turn off your notifications and turn off the tv. Allow yourself to sit and read, meditate, or do a puzzle in silence. As you incorporate silence into your routine, you will be better able to relax and feel comfortable when you use silence in your professional life.