Oh, that’s not very nice.
Mom would give us a spanking back in the day if we used such indelicate language.
But what if there’s some valuable advice in that imprecation.
Well, there is. Let’s just phrase it more politely and talk about it as it relates to your daily conversations.
Be silent, breathe, and really listen vs. loading up the next thing you want to say.
Take a moment to process what you’ve heard … to get the full import of the message.
Let your words sink in and really have impact.
After all, if you’re always talking or getting ready to talk, there’s limited space and time for actual thinking and feeling and connecting, and that’s what true communication is about.
You all know someone who never really listens and won’t let you get a word in edgewise. It’s a one way street … a monologue. You know how unsatisfying and disconnecting that feels … even rude. Well, the further away from that you can get, the better.
Less is usually more in conversation.
My friend and former partner, Denise, put a sign up on the wall early in her coaching career that said WAIT in big letters. Stood for … Why Am I Talking? Exactly.
It comes down this. Who is this exchange between the client and you about … or this significant other and you? What you want and need or what they want and need?
Make it about them.
Lord knows, it isn’t hard. Most people just want someone to really listen to them and hear them. That’s where silence comes in.
Silence is under assault in the modern world of blasting thumpa thump and non-stop shouting. Everything has to be so in your face and geared toward the shortest attention span possible.
But that’s not where you get to the heart of the matter and true understanding,
That happens in the quiet moments.
Years ago, someone asked the virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern a very insightful question.
“Maestro, what’s the difference between you and those competent, well-trained musicians who can play every note as well as you? You’re playing the same notes.”
He answered without hesitation “Oh, it’s not how we play the notes. It’s how we use the silence between the notes.”
Gives me shivers.
True communication … true connection … true beauty arises in the silence between the notes.
And yet, for whatever reason, people feel funny not filling up every moment with dialogue … hence the phrase, “awkward silence.” And so, they keep talking when they should just relax, be quiet, and simply allow the ball stay in the other person’s court.
Here’s a classic example that’s hard-core business related:
You’re negotiating … and there’s a silence.
She who talks first loses.
And yet, most people will interpret the silence as a problem, feel uncomfortable, and rush to fill the space, usually with chatter that compromises their bargaining position.
Just be quiet.
When you pause, you do several things. Among the most important, you …
- Stop yourself from interrupting the other person.
- Show respect by listening more intently and letting their words sink in.
- Give yourself time to think … and breathe.
- Make your thoughts more comprehensible, more impactful, and more persuasive by allowing your words to sink in.
- Make yourself appear more authoritative. Creates a sense of gravitas.
- Inject a little uncertainty and build a positive tension, which greatly enhances the listener’s attention. What WILL she say next? Contrast that with, “When WILL she shut up?”
- Allow an opening for the other person to say something really invaluable, revealing, or surprising. This is a technique interviewers use all the time. They ask a question. The person answers and the interviewer just sits there, gazing intently. THAT’s when interviewees … under the pressure of silence … go on to say the most interesting things.
The end result? You create a stronger, more meaningful connection.
SO … speak less and pause a lot. And when someone else finishes talking, take a few moments to take a breath, relax, and smile before saying anything.
And maybe don’t say anything at all.