My wife is an elementary school teacher. One of her duties is to monitor the kids while they are in the cafeteria having their lunch. Toward the end of the lunch period, the students are asked to stop talking and prepare to leave the cafeteria. This quiet period is referred to as “silent chew”. I chuckle every time I hear this term because it sounds like a cool name for an Asian assassin action figure. During one of these quiet periods, a little boy continued to talk to his friend across the table. When Gwen asked him why he continued to talk even though they had been asked not to, he replied “It’s been in there all morning and I just have to let it out”. I think this is how many of us feel about getting our message out. I’ve always heard that the reason we don’t remember the names of folks we’ve just been introduced to is that we are too focused on how our name is pronounced when we are introduced to them.
Silence can be a challenge for young entrepreneurs. They want to talk about how great their new product is and also prove to everyone that that are smarter than everyone in the room about the product and how their company will achieve success. First of all, if you are a young entrepreneur and you are usually the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room much of the time. No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about what you are doing, you can always learn more. The first step to learning more is gathering information. One of the best ways to do that is listening. Here is why silence in communication matters:
- If we are talking, we aren’t listening – Hearing and listening are two different things. Listening is a more complex process and requires not just receiving the sound but also analyzing, pattern matching and storing it. It is extremely difficult to talk and listen effectively at the same time. So if you are always talking about your product and trying to build your credibility by showing how much you know, you are not listening to comments that may be invaluable to you as an entrepreneur.
- Use our silence to focus on listening rather than thinking about our own message – Some of us have gotten really good at appearing to listen when we are actually just thinking about what we are going to say next. I’ve known young entrepreneurs who had their key messages in their head and were determined to get them all out regardless of the flow of the conversation. They were like a radio that was constantly on transmit. We don’t learn much from one way communication.
- We are designed to listen more that we speak – Two ears, two eyes, one mouth. When we are listening and observing we are gathering valuable data. If we follow the intent of how our bodies are designed, we should listen and observe far more that we speak. Turns out our parents were right when they told us we had “two ears and one mouth for a reason”.
THE TAKEAWAY: Silence can, in fact, be golden, as long as you are using that silence to listen and learn or find a moments peace.