Last week I attended a local networking event. I like to attend a number of these events as the type of work I do revolves around a one on one relationship with business owners. Meeting potential clients face to face allows me and the business owner to do some preliminary evaluation of whether there is the possibility of a good working relationship.
At this particular event my husband and I were traversing the room, introducing ourselves and getting acquainted with the various members. All was going along quite merrily until I introduced myself to a woman I’ll call Mary. Now Mary was a delightful soul but had, shall we say the gift of gab. She was currently working in a position that was necessary to pay the bills, but not exactly her dream job. So for the next forty-five minutes she proceeded to tell me about this dream job and how she was going to obtain it. She talked and talked and talked, never allowing for true conversation or feedback. After approximately fifteen minutes of this my husband gave me that look that said, “I’m going to jump off a bridge if we don’t get away from her soon”. As a business coach and consultant I do a lot of listening. But even I was looking for an excuse to exit stage left. Eventually we were able to politely excuse ourselves from Mary and moved on to other members.
Later that evening my thoughts went back to my meeting with Mary and to why it had been unpleasant for both me and my husband. I concluded that Mary hadn’t allowed for any silence in her conversation. She spoke insistently about herself and her needs, never giving me, the other party the opportunity to contribute. I just kept thinking to myself that I would never become one of her clients because she hadn’t afforded me the silences I needed to convey my requirements.
So how do periods of silence relate to business and leadership? I’m sure there are many, but here are a few that come to mind:
- Occasional silences with your employees allow for conversations to be free of influence. That would be your influence I’m talking about. Do we want a bunch of yes people? Or, do we want out of the box thinking, unique solutions and non-bias opinions and suggestions?
- Periods of silence provide opportunities to gather pertinent information and appropriate feedback from employees, customers and vendors alike. If business owners do nothing but speak of themselves, their products or their services how can they possibly understand the needs of these important groups?
- Silence can calm or diffuse hostile situations. Let’s face it. Conflict, differences of opinion and differences in work styles are a part of every business. Unfortunately these issues can sometimes become hot buttons. Taking a silent step back to rationally think over a situation before reacting can often put things in proper perspective and divert a blow up before it occurs.
Remember, its human nature to want to speak about our favorite subjects me, myself and I. Just keep in mind my Mary story. Allow for a few silences. You don’t want anyone jumping off a bridge do you?
If you have a success story about using silence in your workplace I’d love to hear about it. Please leave your story in the comment box below.