The Sound of Silence

An all-time favorite of mine from S&G, was reminded of the power of this simple phrase at a recent communication workshop help by the inimitable @Terry Gault at our HQ in @HyTrust for our up and coming leaders. Apologize for this one line commercial — but if any of you are in the market for a dynamic, turbo charged and highly cerebral communications guru who can teach a thing or two to even the most sophisticated speaker — look no further than Terry.

Back to the impact of ‘silence’. I was first introduced to this by Terry at a workshop he conducted years ago when I was at another company. Back then, my mantra was talk first, react quickly and listen time-permitting. At the end of the two-day workshop I was confronted with the stark reality of how I had frittered away years, nay decades — of silence I could have incorporated into my everyday life. But that life changing workshop was an eye opener for me and since then I have been inculcating his teachings slowly but surely and I can safely say today my operating model is much different. And it goes something like this

1. Listen with the intent to understand — This is very tough — especially when one has been trained in the art of constantly looking for every bit of sub-second silence as an opening to voice one’s thoughts — illformed, illogical or plain dumb — does not matter. But once you have flipped this logic over its head, where you are not even thinking of responding when the other person is speaking then all the pressure is off. All you do is focus on the speaker and her thoughts, gestures, expressions.

2. Paraphrase — This is amazingly powerful (thanks Terry for reminding us of it) yet so few people use it. Especially so when we are expected to have the answers but don’t — just regurgitating what the seeker mouthed in your own words make the other person want to embrace you literally. Why? Because of #1 — most of us are so busy wanting to respond before he or she completes their thought, that paraphrasing is like an oasis in the desert. There is a magnetic draw towards your empathy and respect for them.

3. Closing the loop — This is a powerful instrument to make the other party — be it an individual or an audience — feel connected and engaged. I have seen the awesome power of this demonstrated by @Spencer Greene at a customer event many moons ago. He went around the room to each customer — asked what they expected to get out of the meeting — wrote it down on the white board as their objectives. At the end of the meeting, he went around the room again, asked if their need was fulfilled — struck out the objective if Yes — handed out his contact info with a promise to follow up if No. #HighImpact

All these three — Exercising Silence, Paraphrasing and Closing the Loop — are simple yet powerful techniques in the business (and in our personal) world. It helped me, maybe it will help you too?

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