The world doesn’t need more loud guys full of too many words, with buff arms, in tight shirts, and huge egos to match. The world needs quiet people. Why?
Quiet people make you think.
Thinking brings clarity.
Thinking can lead to change.
I’ve always been intrigued by Keanu. He is a quiet person who keeps to himself and still hasn’t figured out how to be famous after twenty-nine years of being one of the most iconic Hollywood Actors of all time.
Keanu doesn’t get fame, attention or noise. Instead, he prefers to be quiet and insert silence in his speeches and TV interviews.
When he does choose to speak, he drops short sentence bombs like this interview with Steven Colbert:
Stephen: “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”
Keanu: I know that the ones who love us will miss us.
In eleven words, Keanu summed up the entire meaning of life. It was a moment of sheer brilliance.
Take Time to Answer a Question
In a relatively unknown interview with Keanu back in 2000, RollingStone writer, Chris Heath, picks up on how Keanu uses silence.
I ask him why he acts. For forty-two seconds, he says nothing. Not a word, a grunt, a prevarication, or a hint that an answer might come. For most of that time, his head is angled at ninety degrees away from me, as if that’s where the oxygen is.
“Uh,” he finally says, “the words that popped into my head were expression and, uh, it’s fun.” A few minutes later, I lob a vague question about whether he ever wants to write or direct. He lets out a kind of quiet sigh.
At its worst, it’s like this. You ask Keanu Reeves a question and . . . just wait. Out in space, planets collide, stars go supernova. On earth, forests fall, animals screech and roar. People shout and rant and weep with anger and joy and just for the hell of it.
And, all this time, Reeves sits there, entirely silent.
On this particular occasion, the silence lasts seventy-two seconds.
Rather than answering a question, Keanu waits to see if he has an answer worth giving. He then attempts to edit down his response in his head so that it can be understood. Many of the interviews with Keanu contain huge chunks of silence. That’s why his TV interviews aren’t that in-depth because it takes him time to respond and a three-minute TV interview just doesn’t do it.
The real answers to life’s toughest questions take time to answer.
Softly Spoken Brings People Closer
Billie Eilish does this with her music. Many of her songs contain lyrics that are softly sung and you have to lean in to understand what she’s saying.
Keanu uses softly spoken words in interviews to bring people in and take them on a journey. Hollywood wants him to be loud and fancy, but that’s not how he rolls, and he’s intentional about it.
We’re told to be loud. Social media teaches us to use caps, emojis, hashtags and big, bold captions on our videos to get people to listen.
What if doing the opposite of loud was really the answer to being heard?
A soft voice like Keanu’s draws you in, and then, only then, can you hear what he is trying to say.
One-liners that Break the Room
Journalist, Miki Turner, shares this thought about Keanu in her story titled “Keanu is a man of a few soft-spoken words.”
It’s not that Reeves is difficult because sometimes he’ll go completely left and deliver a one-liner that will break up the room — like when a reporter asked Reeves if he felt his career was being defined by his “Matrix” experience.
“I am the ambassador for the ‘Matrix’ trilogy,” Reeves said in a deep, robot-like voice. “My operating hours are…”
When you speak less and sit back and listen, during the rare times when you do talk, you have the space to deliver one-liners like Keanu that blow people’s minds and help them to think deeply.
Silence Breeds Curiosity
Keanu uses silence brilliantly in speeches and public performances. The silence helps the listener become curious about what he’s going to say. It breeds suspense and that helps you put your phone away and listen.
Silence breeds curiosity and curiosity leads to a conversation where someone will listen to you.
Being Quiet Interrupts the Pattern
Hollywood actors are typically loud and have large personalities. By being quiet like Keanu, you interrupt people’s thought patterns.
Try this: attend a work meeting that you’re supposed to be contributing to. Say nothing. Sit there and actively listen with an engaged look on your face. Continue to be quiet and resist the urge to fill up time with your voice. Watch what happens. At some point, your silence is going to break the pattern of the meeting. Somebody is going to ask you for your point of view and it’s during that moment that you will be “properly” heard.
The typical pattern of meetings and human conversation is to talk a lot. Try being quiet to break the pattern and help people think with your words.
People can’t resist the urge to talk — they also can’t resist the urge to hear from the people who are extremely quiet.
Pauses Allow Time for Reflection
The quiet ones like Keanu always seem to use strategic pauses.
Between each point they’re trying to make, they add a pause. When giving a compliment or expressing gratitude, they add a pause to ensure the maximum effect is felt by those listening.
Pauses in human dialogue allow our minds to think at a deeper level.
The challenge is often we um and ah our way through pauses rather than intentionally leaving a few.
A pause is a tool you can use to get people to think.
The Smarter you Become, the Less You Speak
This is the key lesson Keanu has taught me: You’re not smart by talking a lot. You’re not having an impact by increasing your speech volume or trying to be important. You’re smart when you do the following:
- Let people talk first
- Listen with intention
- When your face shows you’re engaged in the conversation
- You practice saying less
- You lead with empathy
Quiet People Make us Think
Silence is not only golden; it makes you think. And we need more time to think during these uncertain times.
Conversely, you can’t think about what someone is saying if you’re lost in thoughts of what you’re going to say next.
It’s okay to be quiet so you can think.
Quiet people change the world.