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139 – The Power Of Silence



Today I am talking about something that you may have never considered before.  The absolute power of silence and pauses as a communication skill.

What made me think of this, sadly enough, was a show I watched about Adolph Hitler.  Yes…he was an evil guy, I’m not a fan.  However, evil or not, this 5’8”, or 173 cm, kinda weird looking guy was able to captivate an entire nation with his brilliant, impassioned oration, he was a genius communicator, I don’t think we can deny that.

One thing that he and several other well known master communicators like Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Barrack Obama and many others all have in common is their use of silence and perfectly timed pauses in their speech.

Those are all fairly recent guys I just mentioned.  There is no way of proving it, but I bet if you went back in time that almost all the great leaders of history were also great communicators…it’s hard if not impossible to be one, without the other.

There is something about silence.  Standing in front of someone, making eye contact, not saying anything until the moment is perfect.  There is something about that, that rivets people to their seats.  They want to know what you are going to say, they need to know. This is the power of silence.  It commands attention.

All the presidents and leaders make many speeches, but what good are words if nobody is listening?

Barrack Obama has a very unique cadence to his speech.  He pauses often, and then proceeds with a particular rhythm that transfixes his listeners. 

What all this has to do with Being A Better Man is this;  if you are committed to improving in every area of your life, then the form of communication you use most often, your speech, will need to improve as well.

It is with your speech that you convey your thoughts, feelings and emotions to those around you.  Your family, co-workers, business associates and friends.  Your speech, how you talk to people, is equally important as what you are saying.

There are some other benefits to silence and pauses as well;  besides just making people listen better, they help you gather your thoughts.  They allow you the luxury of actually thinking before you blurt things out.  Silence and pauses can make you appear more intelligent as well, if used properly.

I used this technique as a parent, and as an employer.  When I really wanted my kids or employees to hear what I was saying, I would speak in a very low, quite, deliberate voice, pausing between sentences while maintaining eye contact.  People respond to that, way better than they do to yelling.

When I was in sales I would also use a similar technique;  I would start talking quieter, which would force my customer to lean in and pay closer attention.

In the same way your body is a physical representation of who you are, your voice is the audible representation of the same.  I’m telling you guys, it matters how you talk, it makes a difference.  It’s also important that when you talk you enunciate your consonants, speak clearly while you are being silent and pausing.

The other thing about silence, perhaps my favorite thing, is the immutable truth that you don’t learn anything when your lips are moving.  What that means, is that when you are talking you are dispensing information, you are not receiving it.  But when you are silent and listening you are able to take it all in.

Often times in social situations I mingle around the crowd without saying anything, but I’m listening, absorbing information and taking mental notes so that when I do decide to speak…I have something of worth to contribute.

Have you ever noticed there are some people who are made very nervous by silence?  They can’t stand it.  If there is a lull in a conversation and nobody is saying anything it becomes more than they can handle and they just start talking…saying nothing really, just talking to fill the void of silence.  My advice…don’t be that guy.

When I was a kid my friend and I had a nickname for my dad.  We called him “the man of few words”.  We called him that because when he spoke, especially if he was angry, he could say more in four or five words, than most people could say in 50 or 100.  Everything he said, mattered.

You may not even realize how you speak, you may have never considered it.  If you would like to check it out then find a recording device and record yourself talking.  Play it back pretending you are listening to someone else, go ahead and be critical, decide what your short comings are and work on improving it.

That may sound easy, but it’s not.  When I started this podcast the hardest thing for me was getting used to listening to my voice…I hated it at first, I would cringe every time, but slowly, I started to get used to it, and then I was able to start improving it.  I still have a ways to go…but I’m working on it, and thats what counts.

I hope you found this episode helpful, I hope it gave you something new to consider, that you have not considered before.

Now head out into the big world and embrace the silence.  Practice the pauses.  think about your voice and your speech and decide how you want to be perceived by people who hear you talk.  It’s just another area that we can all improve in, and any improvement will make us a better man today than we were yesterday.

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