I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about an issue she was having. When she told me what she'd done, I went the other way with it. I said that she should have used silence, because sometimes it's more powerful as a tool than anything else a person might think to do.

Most of us hate silence when it's directed at us. There's this need to fill up silent pauses with some kind of noise, even if it's just babble, humming, whistling, or something else. Those people who can learn how to master silence sometimes find that they'll glean information they wouldn't have if they'd kept on talking.

For instance, my wife accuses me of something she calls "the stare." Sometimes a person will say something to me that either makes no sense at all, or I have the feeling they're lying to me. Every once in awhile I'm staring at the person because I'm contemplating what they've just said, and I'm using the "eye contact" thing that we're taught as professional speakers to have with an audience. And sometimes, I'm staring at a person because I have absolutely no idea what they just said, either their meaning or their actual words, especially if they're fast talkers.

What I've found is that almost everyone starts talking again if I don't immediately say something. It's an amazing thing because I came upon it accidentally, and have found that it works out pretty well, no matter who I'm interacting with.

You don't have to adopt the stare; as a matter of fact, it's probably not always a good idea. However, what most people need to learn is that they don't have to rush to say something, to try to get the last word in. I've learned how to stop conversations when they're not moving forward by not speaking anymore. Now, the other person may continue offering something, but I'm not a part of it from that moment, so it's all on them, and it's not a conversation but a presentation, one which I get to decide if I want to participate in or not.

The other thing about silence is that it forces you to listen to what the other person is saying. So often we're working on our responses to something we're anticipating a person is going to say rather than responding to what they actually did say. Then we get things wrong and that extends the time people have to deal with each other, which can cause frustration. That's never fun.

I do have to add one thing here, however. In the book Crucial Conversationsicon, it talks about making sure that one doesn't leave important things unsaid when it comes to either business or personal issues. What I'm talking about is something much different. Most of the time, the things one stays silent on don't involve the need for a specific timed resolution. Also, they're not used in personal intercommunications, or at least they shouldn't be. Giving your spouse the silent treatment isn't what I'm talking about here, because that's disingenuous and doesn't enhance the relationship any; that just leads to unresolved issues. Otherwise, silence as a tool can be a great weapon, whether you're using it intentionally or not.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch  Mitchell