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Silence Can Solve Problems That Words Cannot
Silence. A seldom used means of communication. Those who have made it big in life have always known the importance of silence, and how it packs nuclear power when used in the right proportion and in the right situation.
Ever tried keeping quiet in the middle of a fight? Your silence can solve problems that you are trying to solve with the verbal battle. You can create a place for you in someone’s heart if you really know how to be quiet. In a professional world, your silence and your ability to listen can make you far more confident and credible. Whether it’s to improve your life personally or professionally, silence can prove to be an excellent problem-solver in ways that words sometimes cannot be.
Madeline and Stewart have been married for the last ten years. Love and grievances have commingled in their relationship, leading to occasional fights. They almost always know what the other person is going to say, so they presume each other’s reactions and lash out accordingly. What happens then? No one listens. They both talk, and walk out frustrated.
Stewart considered a change in this routine. He decided to let Madeline speak and to be silent, to intently listen to her. Sure, there were many times where he wanted to lash out, but instead he consciously stayed quiet. He tried to learn and understand what she was mad about. Just for one day.
It took a lot of patience but certain things came to him as a surprise. There were many things that actually made sense! So, the next time a disagreement arose, he consciously corrected himself where he felt justified. From there, the relationship changed, Madeline noticed changes in him and felt the urge to change for him. The magic of silence, even after ten years, made a beautiful transformation possible for them and their relationship.
Silence can solve problems in a multitude of other ways in relationships. Here are some of the most common issues that relationships are met with and how to use silence to repair them:
- If your best friend is rude to you, ask him or her why, and then be silent and listen while keeping an open mind.
- As a parent, you are not getting through to your teenage child. Stop preaching. Be silent and listen to your kid. Your child may surprise you with his or her insights.
- Your quiet girlfriend or boyfriend might have things to tell you that you will hear only if you stop talking and create the space for their words to come into play.
Be silent and spend time with yourself. There are things that you probably need to tell yourself but they often get lost in the humdrum of life.Try it once. Even one day can make a difference. Your silence can solve problems that you might have in your relationship with other people or your relationship with yourself that have been archived for years and decades.
The Professional World – Inducing Deliberate Silence
Inducing silence is a technique often used by killer negotiators. Most conversationalists and deal-makers know this trick.1 Below we illustrate how silence can solve problems in the professional world.
Let’s say you need to convince your boss on a slightly unfair proposal. You walk into your boss’ office with a proposal to extend the Christmas holidays by two days for all members on staff. Sure enough, he or she outright refuses. Potential reasons? It might not be in their power, they might have some urgent job to complete before the holidays, or worse, they might not care much about his people.
Let’s say you assume that he does not care for his people. You start speaking right away, trying to explain how desperately people need the additional days, given the pressure of the last quarter. Well, your boss knows that and the reason for his refusal is grave. What happens then? An obvious confrontation – passive or aggressive. Finally, you walk out feeling disgusted and, most importantly, having failed to convince him or her of what you initially wanted for you and your coworkers.
Let’s say you have prepared two arrows in your quiver – two great proposals that can convince him. However, you do not use them right away. They will come out later. Rather, instead of saying anything, you induce deliberate silence. You let your boss break the silence while giving you relevant information. “You don’t understand”, they say, “There is a lot of work pressure right now. We cannot let people leave before the holidays. There are targets to fulfill!”
You are now narrowing down potential reasons and getting closer to the real reason. They have told you that the favor can’t be granted because of deadlines not being met. With a better idea of the overall problem, you can delve deeper. Ask them: “Which projects are you worried about?” When they give an explanation, you will know which arrow to use. Tell them a logical and acceptable way out. So you can propose staying back late and completing the project well before the deadline, and ask if he or she is okay with that solution. They are still not convinced. Being in two minds now, they challenge you, indicating that might not work. You can use your best arrow to seal the deal now! You counter by offering to stay back and close the job before you leave at any cost, keeping back whoever is needed, well before the holidays.
See what you did there?
Scenario B was much more successful, largely, in part, because of inducing silence. You expected resistance, but you did not presume anything. You did not lash out, rather you used silence to your advantage. You understood the problem and worked around it. In the end, you placed a solution that benefits everyone in the bargain – a fair solution that also made sense to your boss, and that is why they accepted it.
Silence Can Solve Problems In Multifaceted Ways
This is not all. Silence can solve problems in several additional ways in the professional world. If you are facing an interview board and you are completely charged up and ready to answer every question, be silent, listen intently, and understand the question first. Your answers will sound professional and the board will be impressed by your poise and grip because you took time to listen and really think out the words that you say. If your colleague is instructing you over something routine that you have done a number of times and you do not need instructions to, do not be impatient, just listen. You might find new information and new ways to do things.
Silence can solve problems if you simply know how to listen and keep an open mind. As the master of the ship, I often end up giving specific instructions to my juniors. At the end, however, I leave an open question. I ask: “Any suggestions from your end?”
This is when I listen intently and wait for new information. You would be surprised at all the ways my juniors have surprised me with their insight and innovative ways to do things.
This is how silence can solve problems, which is far from anything words can do by themselves. A negotiator needs to build a bond with the person on the other side and show them a way that makes sense to the other person as well.
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