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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Silence Speaks Loudly

Silence as a communications vehicle?  Has Jack gone off the deep end on us?

Think back… Mom or Dad greeted you at the door, arms crossed, standing bolt upright and silent as the granite cliffs.  You heard loud and clear that you did something and you were out of favor (to understate the obvious).  Silence communicates disappointment and anger.

How about when having an uncomfortable conversation seeking compromise or restitution on your part and the speaker drops a solution with 2 or more horrible (your view) choices and then clams up.  Without prospect of additional information or an opportunity to move the conversation to a more neutral point, the impact of the silence becomes all too apparent in a matter of seconds – pressure.  Silence communicates persuasion.

Or when being interviewed for a job and the interviewer asks an open-ended question and just listens – actively but noncommittally.  As the silence embraces you after your initial answer, you feel compelled to offer more to your answer. [You can have fun with politicians by going silent after asking a pointed question – many can’t help themselves from expanding the response beyond the usual talking points]  Silence yields more informative communications.

I was at a meeting of the Reston Leadership Breakfast yesterday – the Friday before Memorial Day and the sponsor of the meeting was given an opportunity to tell the attendees about the services offered by his firm (a benefit of sponsorship) but instead asked the group to share a moment of silence in recognition of the women and men in the service of our country who have given their life to establish and preserve our freedom.  Through this simple action of calling for silence, Mike Megless (Narrow Door Consulting), clearly communicated his sincerity and integrity while leaving the audience with a richer sense of what his firm brings to the table that is more memorable than if he had given a 30-minute presentation.  Silence communicates values.

Silence communicates thankfulness and heartfelt gratitude.

As we observe this Memorial Day holiday, please join me in offering a few minutes of silence in tribute to all the individuals serving our country in whatever capacity to protect us and guard our freedom, and in memory of the others who have perished to secure and continue our freedom. Bless you!
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