I recently read a terrific article on www.fastcompany.com by Lydia Dishman. She writes we all probably talk too much. She notes humans, being social animals, use communication to survive and thrive. This would not be a problem except for the fact 60% of our conversation is spent talking about ourselves.
Sadly, few of us are interesting enough to keep others that engaged 60% of the time. How Do we:
- Keep people engaged?
- Get the information we need out of them?
- Get our message across?
… By using Silence.
Silence is an unlikely source of power. With Silence, we can hear what is being said but also what is not being said. With Silence, it can be easier to reach the truth.
Use one of these tips to use Silence to improve your conversation skills:
- When someone has answered a question, pause.
Just as nature abhors a vacuum and rushes to fill it, most people cannot stand Silence, and they will quickly fill those silent parts of a conversation with talk. You will learn the most remarkable things if you just let people talk.
Everyday immigration officers prove this at the border. They ask a question, you answer, and then they go quiet and look at you. Most people prattle on about their trip, how much extra booze or smokes they have brought home, or they fidget and give off body language that says to the officer that they are hiding something.
- Are you losing control of a conversation? Ask a question and shut up.
Studies have shown that a person can think twice as fast as they can talk. So when you need to buy yourself some time, ask an open-ended question and allow the person to answer.
Invest that time they are talking into thinking the issue through to move the conversation towards the outcome you want.
- When someone asks you a question, pause silently.
Nobody likes a know-it-all. When you answer too quickly, people think you have not truly considered their question. Even if you are 100% sure of the answer… Pause. Then answer.
You are showing respect for the other person by appearing to consider what was asked and thoughtfully responding.
If you are spending all day filling the Silence with your voice, you are, in effect, answering your questions. If you are answering your questions all day, who else is working?
Use the power of Silence—no matter how long—until someone gives you the answer you need, and the people on the other half of the conversation will feel empowered and valued.
Then, they will begin to lead themselves.