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Feb 01, 2021

Business Matters: Silence as a Tool

By: Glen J. Dalakian Sr.

During my time in radio, you would often hear people in the studio yell, “Dead air!” which was a major no-no in broadcasting. But as a people skill, silence can be a valuable tool. Yes, listening is more important than speaking in most human interactions. Most of us have heard, “You have two ears and one mouth so listen more,” but this is not the only silence I am referring to. There is power in silence if you learn to use it properly.

Yes, silence can be awkward and, at times, even deafening. If your wife asked you, “Do you love me?” even a millisecond delay could seem like forever when she is awaiting your response – by the way, don’t try this at home. But in many situations, especially in sales or in business discussions, quiet can be most helpful and, at some moments, an important punctuation. Here are several scenarios where, if utilized properly, silence is golden.

  1. Wait for a response – When giving a price to a prospective client, I recommend silence. Be patient and wait for their response. Sometimes the prospect is just processing or maybe they are not sure what to say or perhaps they are pressuring you to drop the price. In any case, it’s best to wait and see. Don’t assume the meaning of their silence; wait for a response and gain the advantage.
  2. Accentuate a statement or moment – Silence can really make a point. Want to make a statement more powerful? Add a moment of silence right after the point and see how the listener hangs on to the next words.
  3. Power move: Contemplation – When someone finishes their statement or question, hold in silence for a short break in the momentum. Then see how the control of the conversation shifts to you and makes the other person think, “Wow they’re really considering this.” People want to know you are hearing them. If you jump to respond too quickly, listeners might think you have dismissed what they had tried to articulate.
  4. Show respect – When you have heard something important, silence can tell the person who spoke the words that you feel what was said has come from someone worthy of your respect.
  5. If you care, then you listen – People like to know that what they have said is of value and that it matters to you, the listener. Like savoring the first sip of a good wine, silence can show that you are carefully considering the expression of the person who is speaking with you.

If all of the above seems trivial, there is always the old saying that I have found time and again to be true, especially in my case: “It is better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”