I’m a yapper … I talk … a lot … it’s one of those things that I often pick on myself for … “Ugh, why did I talk so much? I’m so annoying.” During a group project in college, one of the participants was first to talk and hard to interrupt. The other person just liked to argue and debate. I could see these circling conversations weren’t moving the project forward and I stayed uncharacteristically silent to not prolong the meetings. Our group finally asked our professor to referee. When I spoke my opinion, the professor reinforced it and my idea became the way forward. He asked me to stay after to explain Silent Influence. His reinforcement of my idea certainly helped but he explained that because I had become the quiet one in this group that when I did interject a plausible idea, it held more weight and respect.
Ever since learning that valuable lesson, I’ve continued to apply Silent Influence. Business meetings, my coaching, and difficult family discussions. I’m not always great at this because of my natural tendency to talk. I’m still a work in progress but here’s what I’ve learned about speaking less.
The Chatter Box is Tuned Out: If you think speaking first gives you a gold star, you could not be more wrong. If this is a status you have earned … your peers now expect you to speak first, they wait until you do … they let you ramble … and they tune out everything you say. The person speaking the most, is the person least listened to.
You Think Before You Speak: While you are waiting for the chatter box to finish, you get a moment to ensure you don’t rush to an opinion. As you listen to others, you gain valuable insight. Someone’s point may be an excellent layer to what you are about to say which allows you an opportunity to add praise for a colleague when it’s your turn. Your delivered point becomes balanced with help of your co-workers.
You Hold More/Most Weight: The person who isn’t known to talk often will get the most attention when they do. It’s just the way it works. Assuming what you say is of value. When people talk just to talk, it comes across as inauthentic. Trust that you will have something to add at some point and wait to speak. Remember, less is always more.
Having the Last Word is Memorable, Making It Valuable: In a 45-minute meeting, the last thing said tends to be the most memorable. In some workplace cultures, colleagues will jockey to get in the last word. I’m not suggesting that you compete for that last thought. However, if it can happen organically that you make one of the last points, it’s impactful.
One last note on Silent Influence. Working with a client recently, we discussed her concern about being too quiet and not adding value in a client meeting. We dissected her experience and discovered that she was having a bad vibe about a potential partnership. She had instinctively stayed silent after her questions weren’t being answered by the third party. Her silence was telling her something that we discovered in coaching. She then followed up and most likely helped her client avoid a partner that wasn’t a good fit. She has since been asked by this client to stay on for a long-term contract. Her Silent Influence was spot on.