Silence is known for the absence of sounds, not for its virtue to enhance communication. An interesting paradox is Silence can actually be a powerful tool to help you communicate like an ace.
How does it work? How can Silence be more effective than words?
First, we will look into some basics of communication.
When we think about Silence, the first thing that comes to mind is the speech. But, communication is not only about sounds, it’s also about what you can see, smell, and touch. If you’re in the line of the supermarket and push your front neighbour in the back, you communicate to him to move forward. Regardless of him liking it or not, it’s still a way of communicating.
If you remove the speech, what do you have left? Unlike some animals, we communicate very little through smells. So, what we have left is body language. How you stand, how you move, how your facial expression relates to the situation are all communicating something to others.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian states that the majority of what we communicate is nonverbal.
Use your hands, eye-contact.
There are a lot of excellent resources that can teach you how to improve your nonverbal communication. I’ll just give you a few tips I learnt with a self-help coach.
For instance, when you communicate, use your hands like politicians on TV. Hands should be visible in front of your torso. Their movement should be slow and emphasise the meaning of your words.
Maintain eye contact with your interlocutor (but don’t stare at him like a serial killer). It helps to keep his attention and show your presence.
Give impact to your words
Now, let’s tackle silence in conversation. Silence in between sentences will give weight to your words. The silence creates a moment of suspense, where your interlocutor is craving for the rest of what you have to say.
- “I want you to reflect on last night's event.” Pause for 4-5 seconds. “Because our parents were not happy.”
- “I want you to reflect on last night’s events, because our parents were not happy.”
Which one of the above sentences has more impact? The first one.
Silence is a way to increase the tension in what you say. It creates a space where your audience will be sucked into.
A good way to practice that is by taking a random book. Read out loud a random page in a composed manner. At every comma and full stop, mark a silence as if you wanted to stop time. At first, it might be hard to fight against your natural will to decipher the text as quickly as possible. You might progressively notice that your words become more impactful and in control.
Marking pauses gives the total opposite effect of an angry speaking person. In the latter, emotions rule his speech. With Silence, you rule your speech.
Implementing silence in your communication can give different effects. You can create a moment of suspense, of reflection, of awkwardness. It all depends on how long is your pause, and how you approach the pause yourself.
During the pause, you’ll notice a slight raise of awareness on your end. For example, you might notice how silence can be long. Or even during this silence you might notice how stressed you are, or how your body is positioned.
Being aware of your body during your communication is a starting point. It will help you work on your body language, and how to pace yourself.
Communication is definitely an art. The beauty of it is that you can learn, practice and become a powerful communicator. So now that you know a few tools, kick some silence in your conversations!
About the author: Ludovic Chung-Sao
Ludovic is founder of Zen Soundproof. He uses his experience as a Mechanical Engineer to compile Soundproofing DIY guides. His technical experience and natural curiosity help him break down complex topics to make it clearer for others. He also finds inspiration in sharing mindful habits. Learn more at https://zensoundproof.com/