We hate silence. If you are a type A, highly driven person like I am you likely view silence as a waste of time. Nobody is saying anything, thoughts and ideas are not being shared and therefore nothing is getting done. Even if you aren’t quite that intense about it silence likely makes you uncomfortable. I am reminded of a boy who was asked to hold a moment of silence for a fallen friend. After about fifteen seconds the boy said, “Okay, that’s enough.” The crowd chuckled. But I know exactly how the boy felt. Silence is intimidating.
Pay attention the next time you are in a meeting. How much silence is there? I would bet almost none (unless the meeting is very tense which is a topic for a different week). So I pose this question, If someone is always talking when is anyone supposed to think? Clearly the only possible answer is, While someone else is talking. Now, if I have to think about what I want to say while someone else is talking who is listening? Ahh, now we see the problem. No one is listening because someone is always talking and everyone else is thinking about what they want to say. No wonder we can’t communicate!
An additional thing to consider when thinking about silence is, when is silence really just because no one has anything to say and when is it because people are thinking. It takes people different lengths of time to decide the floor is open and they can speak. Before I learned that silence was a good thing, if no one was talking and I had a thought complete enough to share, I started speaking. Other people wait an extra second or two just to make sure they aren’t stepping on anyone in the conversation. If you have a person who is always filling the silence the more “polite” communicators will never have a chance to have their voice heard.
As you create your team’s communication fingerprint think about how silence can be allowed. I am not saying you have to mandate a certain amount of it between each speaker. That would make for a very stilted conversation. As a team, talk about it. How do you work “think time” into a conversation? If you have someone on the team who fills silence, either by talking or saying uhhhhh while they think so they don’t lose the floor, talk to them about it. I have a friend who says, “what else can I tell you…?” trailing off at the end. It makes it clear to me as a listener that he is not finished speaking and I should not start. That isn’t true silence.
So think about how your team handles silence. Talk about it. It will get you one step closer to being able to maintenance the conversation and be your most productive.
How does silence make you feel? Do you have someone in your group who is always filling the space with words or sounds? Leave us a comment telling us about it or any other thoughts you have about this topic!
Next week: A tiger behind every tree
Did you miss last week’s topic about using the black box of communication? Read it here.
Tags :Champion Performance Development, communication, Doc Robyn, effective communication, effective communicator, good communication, good communicator, Robyn Odegaard, silence is golden, team building, team development, teamwork