It seems that our lives normally need a lot of noise to matter. We are at the point where we talk so much that sometimes there is nothing valuable left to be said. And when we truly have something to say, something that matters, nobody hears us anymore. Because our voice, in a sea of already diluted voices, simply becomes noise which adds to the general noise. Perhaps we should talk less and listen more.
I once refused to give a speech. It was the Forbes 30 Under 30 Award Gala and, the moment I got to the microphone, I said that I had nothing to say. Over one hundred people were staring at me astonished, as I explained, in short, that I had come to the point where I talked so much that I had nothing left to say. Instead, I requested a spontaneous selfie. Which also happened. At that moment, I thought that, in a sea of triumphant speeches, the silence of a man who got there for talking too much, could sent a stronger message.
Sometimes, silence can be the best speech we can deliver when facing some people or situations. Even though silence could be considered to be impolite, I believe that – on the contrary – it can be a sign of respect to a man’s ideas in some cases, and to the world. Not seldom, in our jobs, we are asked to say what we think about some feedback. Somehow, we must express our opinion about an opinion that is going to give rise to another opinion and so on, which will finally leave us with nothing: not only the feedback, which was probably given thought to for a while, will be diluted, but it will become questionable due to previously formed opinions, in the heat of the moment. Feedback is important, if not essential, as well as communication in general, but both must occur at the right time.
Silence also means that we can listen: we are capable of listening on the one hand and care about what we are being told on the other hand. It is said that people who cannot truly listen will start talking about themselves, even sharing a similar experience.
Even though it can be considered a mark of empathy at first glance, it ultimately only shows the lack of empathy of the person who doesn’t know how to listen. And one of the most important lessons of leadership teaches us to know how to listen, which implies, of course, monumental silence, but an extremely pragmatic one in its state. It teaches us to understand what is truly happening, before we articulate an opinion or a piece of advice.
If we have nothing of importance or value to say, it is better to remain silent. At work, we often feel the need to complain: that we have too much work to do, that we are frustrated or that we are not happy with our paychecks. It is important to us, but – instead of constantly complaining, we must indicate once what our problem is and if nothing happens, to do what we believe must be done. To do, not to say.
Also at work, unless we have something to ask, it is better to remain silent than to make ourselves heard through the means of the same counterproductive noise a chair makes when it’s dragged into a meeting room. Same if we run into gossip – we must respond with the silence of the dignified. The noise can only manipulate us if we engage in it, thus generating noise in turn, so that ultimately we would also become a small part of the decibels which become incomprehensible.
Perhaps, for some of us, silence means turning our backs to the world, to hide. On the contrary, I might say. It means that we are turning our face to the world and we stop for a moment to listen and to learn, to show respect by understanding what is truly happening around us. In a room where everyone is talking, yelling and squirming, and where everybody has an opinion, we must sometimes remain silent and just listen.