Silence Is Golden: Why Keeping Quiet at Work Is Actually a Good Thing
Unless you're someone who's terrified of social situations, chances are you love to talk. But no matter how much you want to share you life story or take over the conversation, you shouldn't. Your socially awkward coworkers that keep their mouth shut might actually have a leg up on you at work, and here's why.
Trying to sell something can be awkward. No one wants to hear the dreaded "no thanks", but an easy way to make a better sale is to stop talking after you pitch your product. Chattering away afterwards can make your listeners less likely to agree to what you proposed. Talking on and on takes away their opportunity to give an answer, and makes you appear less confident.
Although it's nerve-wracking to wait for approval or rejection, Jon Steinberg, CEO of Daily Mail, says the best pitches are brief: "If you just keep talking, they won't respond, you'll conclude and they'll just thank you and you'll leave. This is the worst of all pitch meetings. Less is more. ... Drop the mic and wait for responses."
When you keep your mouth shut, you're gently giving your audience control over the conversation. This pause forces them to start talking. A few moments of awkward silence, and they'll feed the need to fill the void. Your listener will share feedback, ask questions, and most importantly, respond to your pitch.
Whether you love your coworkers or can't stand them, staying silent at various times throughout the workday will help your team grow stronger as a unit. If you tend to know all the answers and your coworkers are a bit slower on the uptake, hold back and let them figure things out for themselves.
No, the point isn't to let them fail. Instead, you're allowing them to come up with proposals and solutions that they might not otherwise have the chance to. When you, the most vocal idea-sharer, stay quiet, you offer your coworkers the space to share their own (even if they have to share a few terrible ones first).
Staying quiet can also be an attention-grabbing move: if you sit silently at a meeting, others will notice and call you out on this, asking you for your opinion. When this happens, everything you say holds more weight.
While you might not like keeping your genius ideas quiet, letting go of the spotlight and taking a moment to sit quietly can increase your credibility and power in the office. As Mark McNeilly of Fast Company writer says, if you spend an entire meeting blabbing away about your ideas and suggestions, others quickly get tired of hearing your voice, while silence gives you increased power.
If you're looking to engage with your audience and really make your words stick, slip short, silent pauses into your speeches to win the audience over and have them hanging on your every word.
Andrii Sedniev, creator of the Magic of Public Speaking system, says it's important to pause within the first few seconds of your speech. Sedniev equates speaking immediately after being introduced with jumping into conversation with someone without saying "Hi". Beginning with a quick moment of silence before launching into your prepared remarks acknowledges the audience and gives you a second or two to take in the task before you.
It's also important to silently pause your speech when making a vital point. Sedniev suggests pausing both immediately before and after critical statements. This will help you grab the audience's attention; most speakers drone on, pausing only to catch their breath. If you change things up and stop speaking as a form of emphasis, your listeners will take notice. Unusual actions pique interest, after all.
Peter Gollwitzer, a psychology professor at NYU, published a study recently that examined how our goals are shaped when we make them known to others. When the study's participants shared their goals with other people, they were more likely to give up on those accomplishments. Meanwhile, those who kept their dreams to themselves had a higher success rate.
What makes staying silent about our hopes and goals helpful? According to Gollwitzer's research, we feel as though we've completed a significant part of our goal. Just talking to one person about the task before us tricks our brain into thinking we've satisfied our need to tackle it—so, as a result, we simply give up.
If you truly want to make progress on your diet, finish a tough work project, or complete that DIY project that's been sitting in your garage, don't say a word to anybody. Keep your goals to yourself and you'll feel a stronger need to stick with the task.
Love to argue? You can win more arguments if you keep quiet for a little longer during conversations. It's easy to tell people why they're wrong—and let's be honest, we all love correcting others—but doing so won't exactly win you friends.
Instead, tell someone they're wrong in a different way with a technique called the Ransberger Pivot. Created by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz, this tactic turns arguments into understanding.
When you feel like correcting someone's statement, or want to prove them wrong, take a minute to listen instead. Take in what they're saying, and try to understand what's going through their mind. Then, try to find someone common ground between your thoughts and theirs.
Now, instead of commanding the conversation in an accusing manner, you can explain why your opponent is wrong in a subtle way: describe the common ground you share, and build the conversation from there.
You'll have the chance to explain why you're correct, without making them feel they've been publicly shamed. In the end, they'll take your points and remarks more seriously—after all, you made them feel like a valuable, contributing member of a conversation rather than an angry arguer.
Talking might be your favorite form of communication, but there's quite a lot to gain from a few minutes of silence each day. Try it out—just don't let your newfound love of keeping quiet stop you from chatting with people when needed!