There is time to talk and another to remain silent, a moment to justify and another to reflect, a moment to claim our rights firmly and another to wait patiently. Talking continually is not always the best. Sometimes, to be heard, we must learn to remain silent, know how to handle silence, aware that communicating means to convey a message, and sometimes, saying nothing, we can express more than with a thousand words.
The active role of silence in communication
Georges Clemenceau said that "managing silence is more difficult than managing the word". Silence is a powerful communication tool that can play a more active role than words, as long as used wisely and at the right time.
When you learn how to handle silence:
- You communicate better. It often happens that we talk too much. Everyone, at times, we tend to monopolize a conversation using too many useless and sometimes counterproductive words, especially when we want to convince someone. And although it may seem paradoxical, silence will make your message stronger and clearer.
- You really listen. In our society, silence can be embarrassing, especially in some contexts, this is why we want to avoid it at all costs. So, instead of listening to what our interlocutor says, much of our brain is already thinking at the answer we will give. Instead, silence will allow you to concentrate on what the other person is saying, as well as paying attention to his non-verbal communication, and this will allow you to get more information and better understand what's going on.
- Reach your goal faster. The ultimate goal of communication should be to share information and make a decision, not win. In this case, silence is not only useful to minimize the noise generated by vain words, but it can also speed up conflict resolution.
- You show more empathy and respect. Once your topics are exposed, the cleverest thing to do is shut up and let the other person express his or her opinion. Silence is a sign of respect and a demonstration of empathy.
- You stimulate reflection. There is no need to answer immediately. It is better to remain silent and think about your answer. Indeed, a Hindu proverb states: "When you speak, make sure that your words are better than silence". Silence also tells the other person that you have nothing else to say, so that he or she reflects on your arguments, while continuing to argue would only lead to a blind alley.
In what situations is it convenient to use silence?
Miles Davis said that "silence is the strongest sound, perhaps the strongest among all the noises". Therefore, in certain situations, the best thing to do is not keep talking, but remain in silence and let silence reach its purpose.
- When you have no issues to add, silence will allow the other person to reflect on what you have said. Sometimes adding other words only serves to create chaos and confusion in the message that you want to convey.
- When the other person takes the conversation as a battle and thinks in terms of winning and losing, so tends to hide behind his or her arguments.
- When the other person does not show a receptive attitude to your words, but closes his or her mind because does not really care about what you feel or think. In that case even the wisest words fall into the void.
- When you want to send a strong message, in which case it is best to be short and concise, avoiding digression. In these cases, people tend to interpret silence as a sign of confidence and security.
- When you want the other person to express what he or she thinks, so your silence is an invitation to speak, it indicates that you are listening to them.
- When the discussion fails control, deviating from the central argument. In this case, silence can serve to redirect the conversation or end it, if it does not make sense to move forward at that time.
Of course, there are cases where silence is not positive, for example, when used as a contempt weapon to hurt others. In this case silence brings nothing to the relationship and the other remains without knowing what you think or desires and creates an hostile environment. In fact, this kind of silence can also be interpreted as an aggressive or humiliating attitude and will not help resolve the dispute.
However, remember that everyone speaks and criticizes, few people listen and understand. Do not make the mistake of confusing verbosity with useful information, easy word with intelligence and the amount of arguments with being right. A beautiful Buddhist proverb says: “When you throw your thorns these, falling in my silence, become flowers”.
To be heard, sometimes you need to shut your mouth up
4/ 5Oleh Jennifer Delgado