The Best Communicators Know When to Shut Up

And their relationships grow because of it

Michael Thompson
Apr 8 · 5 min read
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

“The definition of success is when the people you love actually love you back.” — Warren Buffett

The beauty of getting older is that patterns begin to emerge. One of the most glaring is that the best communicators are the very ones who have the most meaningful relationships, which according to Warren Buffett, is the key to living a successful life.

However, this is not only because they know what to say. It is also because they know when to say nothing at all.

Relationships are sealed in the details. The best communicators understand this, and they know that the best way to pick up on the details is by prioritising their two ears over their one mouth. This is especially true when it comes to the six circumstances below.

1. The Best Communicators Don’t Rub Their Great Day in the Face of Someone’s Bad Day

This does not mean they don’t feel the urge to share their good news with the world. Like most people, they do. However, unlike most people, strong communicators demonstrate self-control by first making sure the people they are with are up for celebrating.

They do this by giving the non-verbal communication signs of others the respect they deserve. Body language is huge. Facial expressions are huge. Strong communicators understand this, and if someone is slouching and their face shows the lines of a hard day, they refrain from taking the stage, and instead pull up a chair.

2. The Best Communicators Don’t Respond Negatively to Criticism

However, this doesn’t mean the feedback they receive doesn’t sting. At times it does, but instead of justifying their reasoning and subsequent actions, people with strong communication skills take it on the chin. They only open their mouths to thank the person that was kind enough to give it to them.

3. The Best Communicators Don’t Talk Over People

However, lots of people do that. What separates strong communicators from the rest is they reel themselves back into the conversation. They do this by reminding themselves to stop thinking about what they want to say, so they can actually listen to what the person in front of them is saying. The best communicators are learners, and they know that the greatest present they can give to another is their presence.

4. The Best Communicators Don’t One-Up Others

So when someone has good news to share, strong communicators quietly grab the spotlight and shine it directly on them, instead of redirecting it onto themselves. They do this because they know that life is not a competition, and they recognise that everyone’s starting line is different. On top of that, they have also learned that the speed it takes to reach their own goals intensifies the more they help others to reach theirs.

5. The Best Communicators Do Not Argue About Meaningless Stuff

However, don’t confuse this with being a pushover. Great communicators are not pushovers. They simply know how difficult it is to change the minds of others because they know how hard it is for other people to change theirs.

6. The Best Communicators Don’t Try to Solve Everyone’s Problems

So the next time someone reaches out to you and says they need to talk, steal a trick from strong communicators, and let them. Your relationships will thank you for it.

Pulling It All Together

They shut up and think before popping open the champagne when the person in front of them clearly doesn’t look like they’re in the mood for celebrating.

They shut up and think before talking over people or opening their mouths to fight criticism with fire.

They shut up and think before interrupting someone and remind themselves that when in the company of others their presence must be present.

Put these things together, and you have an empathic and supportive person, which looks a lot like the type of person others want to spend their time with.

And the best part about this is, you too can strengthen your communication skills, and therefore your relationships today. When it comes to the five circumstances above, all you have to do is shut up.

Because when you do, you may just find that the people you love actually love you back.

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Thanks to Danny Forest, Maarten van Doorn, and Brian Pennie

Michael Thompson

Written by

Co-creator of 2 little boys with my dream girl -career/communication coach seen in Fast Co. INC, Business Insider — say hi @

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