Centuries ago, the Roman poet Ausonius said: “who does not know how to remain silent do not know how to talk”. The truth is that in the world we live in there’re more people who speak and don’t listen. The almost obsessive desire to spend time doing always something also makes us speaking, as if silence was an uncomfortable companion to get rid of as soon as possible. But often, we communicate more remaining silent.
People who talk a lot learn a Little and, eventually, monopolize the conversation ending up being avoided by others that don’t have space left to express their feelings and ideas. Surely you learn more by listening than talking. Therefore sometimes we have to learn to say more talking less. Sometimes, talking less means being more assertive.
Five ideas to communicate more using few words
1. Give more hugs. A hug can say a lot without words. In fact, there’re situations where every word can be trivial and even uncomfortable. In these cases, there’s nothing better than a hug, the kind that breaks sadness and bring people together by allowing them to connect from the bottom of their “self”. And if you need an excuse to give a hug, a study of Carnegie Mellon University revealed that hugs help to cope with stress and strengthen the immune system, because generate positive feelings that encourage the release of hormones such as oxytocin.
2. Don’t be afraid of silence. Mark Twain said: “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a proper silence”. The ability to remain silent with another person creates a feeling of new intimacy. In fact, remaining silent without feeling uncomfortable with another person indicates that we reached a point in the relationship that we don’t need to fill in the gaps. There’re situations when, instead of being bothered with empty talking, a person only needs to have us at his side, in silence, sustaining him emotionally.
3. Summarize your ideas. A conversation needs at least two parts, which means that we should be assertive enough to allow others express their feelings and ideas. If you monopolize the conversation, this becomes a monologue that will eventually annoy others. Therefore, when you express an idea or tell a story, go to the point, do not lose yourself in petty details, so as to leave space for others to talk about their experiences.
4. Pay attention to the reactions of the others. A conversation is like a dance, where everyone must pay attention to the reactions of others and act accordingly. In fact, the French philosopher Montaigne said: “The word is half of who speaks it, and half of who listen to it”. Unfortunately, many times we’re so much involved in our argument to forget the other. But the key of assertiveness is to capture and decipher the reactions of our interlocutor, to see if he’s bored or don’t follow us anymore. In this case, just correct the course, choosing an appropriate phrase or simply remaining silent.
5. Listen, listen, listen... someone said that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion. When we practice active listening we don’t assume a passive attitude, on the contrary, we demonstrate to our interlocutor that is an important person and we’re interested in his message. The act of listening conveys respect and interest, is a way to say that our interlocutor can trust us, and we’re interested in his opinions. So don’t interrupt, listen to others. Remember there are times when a perfect speech and the most logical reasons are useless, when the soul needs to cry the best we can do is become good listeners. As Julio Cortázar said: “words are not enough when what you have to say overflows your soul”.
Cohen, S. et. Al. (2015) Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness? Psychological Science; 26(2): 135–147.
Words are not enough when what you have to say overflows your soulJennifer Delgado