Want more impact? Why you need to say less

| March 22, 2017

In a noisy and fast-paced world it can be easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that your level of impact equates to how much you talk.

There’s a clear difference between using your voice to stand for something and share your ideas, to talking for the sake of filling space or hearing your own voice.

It was the esteemed Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said “Silence is a source of great strength”.

Leaders who have presence know the right moment to talk and the right time to hold silence. They recognise that silence is powerful.

A perfectly timed paused can be used to emphasise a point as it gives people time to take in what has been said. You’ll often see speakers use this technique to great effect. They are holding the space and giving the audience time to reflect.

It can also be used to create a tension in the conversation, which is particularly effective when negotiating.

Many people are uncomfortable with silence. If there’s a lull in the conversation they jump in to close the gap with a comment or question.   By continuing to talk they can reduce the impact of their words.

On the flipside, when silence is used with the wrong intent it leads to poor outcomes and impacts relationships.

Silence isn’t helpful when it is used as a weapon of anger or in a way which is passive aggressive. For example, when one person stops communicating with another person or blocks someone from being heard or feeling comfortable to share their views.

If staying silent results in a person doing things they don’t want to do or don’t believe in, it won’t lead to a productive and engaged workplace.

It’s about finding the right balance; the courage to share your views and knowing the right time to speak.

Otherwise, the person’s message goes unheard as it isn’t delivered at the right time, in the right way and when the person is in the best frame of mind.

It can be useful to think about the three T’s:

  • Timing – when you put forward your view
  • Temperament – your mindset and how you are feeling when you talk
  • Tone – the pace, resonance and manner in which you talk

When all three elements are in alignment a person’s message will be packed with conviction -ensuring their words have impact.

Michelle Gibbings

Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’.