Learning to shut your mouth

Silence is golden.

Did you hear it? Wonderful, isn’t it?

During a period of silence, good things can happen.

Learning when to stop talking is a fantastic skill that should be learnt by all leaders. Tweet this!

Let other people talk, please

I’ve noticed a great many people who talk too much, when they should be listening. When you are silent, others have the chance to contribute. This is obviously extremely important when you’re leading teams, because drowning out the room with your own voice and opinion can stifle any other point of view.

Generally, when you are speaking, other people are not.

Understanding when you have said enough to let others contribute is a skill. You do need to keep speaking until others understand the context, but as soon as you have reached that point, you need to shut up. Don’t use 10 words where 5 will do.

Say what you believe to be the bare minimum in order to inform your audience what they need to know, then prompt them to respond. Whenever you are about to say anything, ask yourself “Does this add anything to the discussion?”

If the answer is no, then simply don’t say anything.

Stop wasting time with long and arduous responses

I am reminded of a time when a colleague of mine was asked, “Do we know who our competitors are for this work?”

His answer was “Well, due to the previous involvement of <some company> we think they might be one of them, but we’re hoping that they didn’t meet the expectations of the client so they will go with us instead. Other than that, we haven’t really heard anything about the competition.”

The real answer was “No”.

That’s what should have been said.

Leaders who talk too much stop people contributing

Depending on the composition of your team, as a leader you can have a dramatic influence on the outcome of a conversation.

In particular, when asking for feedback about an issue or some work that has been completed, you need to be mindful not to jump in too early to a conversation.

Have you ever heard a leader say “That’s fantastic! I love it. What do you guys think?”

In many cases, surprise, surprise, they agree with what the leader thinks. You know why? Because it’s easier than going against the grain and disagreeing with the boss.

So as a leader, if you want feedback on something, stop talking at the right time. Ask the question, then shut your mouth. Adding your own opinion is not helping.

Consider the difference:

What do you think of the designs?

Compared to:

What do you think of the designs? I think they look amazing.

So please, learn to shut up and you will accomplish 3 things:

  • Let somebody else speak
  • Stop wasting other people’s time; and
  • Help your team contribute honestly.

(When I wrote this I cut it from 700 words to under 500…I was using 700 words when 500 would do!)

Originally published at comms101.net on January 14, 2016.