The Q&A after my presentation was winding down. I asked if there were any other questions and waited. I didn’t think the silence was particularly long but the moderator apparently did. She got up and started thanking me for speaking just as someone else started asking a question. They floundered a bit, each apologizing until I said, “Let’s make this our last question before we close” and smiled at the woman to continue with her question.
Generally speaking silence feels awkward. If you are a type A, highly driven person you might view silence as a waste of time. Nobody is saying anything, thoughts and ideas are not being shared and therefore nothing is getting done. Even if you aren't quite that intense about it, silence likely makes you feel uncomfortable or even intimidated.
Pay attention the next time you are in a meeting. How much silence is there? I would bet almost none. I would like to pose this question; If someone is always talking when is anyone supposed to think? The only possible answer is; While someone else is talking. If I have to think about what I want to say while someone else is talking who is listening? Ahh, there is the problem. No one is listening because someone is always talking and everyone else is thinking about what they want to say. No wonder we can't communicate!
Things to consider when thinking about silence:
Each of these situations requires a different response from the leader.
It takes people different lengths of time to decide the floor is open and they can speak. Before I learned that silence was a good thing, if no one was talking and I had a thought that was close to complete enough to share, I started speaking. Other people prefer to wait an extra second or two to make sure they know what they want to say and they aren't stepping on anyone in the conversation. If you have a person who is quick to jump in whenever someone breathes more "polite" communicators will never have a chance to have their voice heard.
Some people fill space just to hold the floor. I know someone who says, "What else can I tell you...?" trailing off at the end. It makes it clear to me as a listener that he is not finished speaking and I should not start. If you have someone on your team who fills silence, either by talking or saying “uhhhhh….” while they think, bring it to their attention in a private conversation.
As you create your team's Communication Fingerprint™ talk about what "think time" looks like. The only way to allow for productive silence is to understand what works best for your team. Having a discussion about it is a great place to start and will get you one step closer to being able to effectively maintenance your conversations and be more productive.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded by sound, be it music, talking or coffee shop noise, creating space to think is a matter of priority. Where is think time on your list?
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
PS - Any blog I write can be given in presentation or workshop format. If you're interested in a specific topic, give me a call or send me an email. I'd love to chat with you and make it happen!
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.