Why Silence is a Powerful Tool in Business Communication – Part I
September 22, 2019
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Silence is one of the most underutilized yet powerful tools in business communication. That’s because communication is as much about what you don’t say as what you do say.
Research by psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian shows that only 7% of communication is verbal — that is the words you say. The other 93% is nonverbal — such as our tone, facial expressions, gestures or posture. In addition to the verbal and nonverbal messages we deliver during our communication, silence is a powerful nonverbal connector and amplifier of a good message.
Indeed, whether it’s for an in-person interview, delivering a pitch or presentation, or general interpersonal communication, silence can bestow several gifts to the speaker. Here are some of them.
It makes you an effective listener
Keeping silent makes you a more effective listener for many reasons. First, you give the other person to give you the answer you asked about or are looking for. Second, it gives you time to consider your words, and deliver a well-digested reply.
Indeed, when you focus less on what you want to say, and more on maintaining silent and digesting, you not only retain more of what the other person has said but you’re better at picking up on nonverbal cues and mirroring them to appeal to the other person.
It makes you appear thoughtful
Silence gets you out of the way and lets others fill in the void with what they want to say. This not only makes you appear like a good listener, but also makes you more likable, trustworthy, and thoughtful.
It actually amplifies your words
Silence helps emphasize a point in part because good ideas get lost in too many words. If you pose a question to your audience or a bold idea, try pausing to give your audience the time to reflect and invest themselves in what you’ve said.
It gives you authority as a speaker
Pausing also affords you a sense of authority: it shows you have the confidence to do things at your own pace, and not be rushed to finish. It’s no wonder Leonardo Da Vinci famously said that “nothing strengthens authority so much as silence”. So, if you’re looking to establish credibility or power in a business setting, try saying nothing in the middle of a negotiation or a presentation, and see how your audience reacts.
Are there any other benefits of practicing silence in business settings that I missed?
In part 2, we’ll give you practical ways you can use silence, and how to practice at home.