“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.”-Confucius
We all have the urge to speak our mind. Especially when we are emotionally charged by something, the urge to say what we want to say is rarely one we can suppress.
Most of us feel that we have a right, a responsibility even, to say what we want to say, and that it will help our situation because others will be able to understand our point of view. Of course, in practice, this rarely works out the way we think it should. There are many reasons for this—cognitive dissonance being one.
Human beings are funny creatures. They seek to believe what they already believe even when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s often that when we ‘speak our mind,’ we end up doing more harm than good. It’s often that science is your best play. Of course, our desire to speak up is too strong and so most of us do. To not speak up takes immense self-control and restraint, which most people do not possess. Further, some feel it is an error to not speak their mind; they (wrongful) assume that their words are necessary the given situation.
On the flip side, some restrain themselves from speaking up because they are timid and afraid of being judged. On the other end of the spectrum there are those t hat rarely restrain themselves because they feel that not speaking up would be a major disservice to the universe. Then there are those right in the middle: They speak up only when it makes perfect sense, and maintain silence when speaking up is more iffy.
And I say: Be the latter—Speak up only when it makes perfect sense and keep your mouth shut the rest of the time.
The powerful use what they don’t say—silence—as a powerful tool. They speak only when speaking is more appropriate than not. Then, when they do, people are more likely to listen. Their words hold power and meaning because they are few and far between, and well thought out. The powerful and wise know that it’s often what you don’t say that holds power, not what you do say. They understand human nature and that listening and silence are powerful tools in persuasion.
Compare this to the loose-tongued blabbermouth that is a terrible listener and is always interrupting people because he (or she) feels his (or her) words are a gift from God. The ‘talker’ feels better when he gets to say what he wants to say. He assumes that people hear him simply because he verbalized the words that were in his head. For him, to listen is a struggle, and to not speak is like being stuck in a torture chamber.
Don’t be like this. Please... you aren't doing yourself any favors.
Of course, each of these examples are at the extreme ends of the spectrum. I’m not suggesting you play the mute as you would run the risk of people not noticing you, or your ideas, at all. As with everything, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
There is one thing I do suggest, however, and that is to listen more. As I’ve grown up in my twenties, I’ve noticed that people, on average, have become worse listeners. I think the cell phone mania and the on-demand nature of everything has played a role in this. No matter why this is, the fact is that most people are not good at listening, which is a shame because of how powerful a skill listening is for persuasion, influence and forming strong relationships.
Want to connect with someone? Ask them questions and listen intently. Don’t interrupt them so you can say all the words in your head about your life.
Want to persuade someone? Ask them questions and listen intently. Don’t “talk” or “speak” to them, let them talk their self onto your side as you lead them with intelligent questioning (the Socratic method).
Most people are bad listeners. Based on this simple truism, you should realize that the majority of what you say—especially when you are saying a lot—is going to fall on deaf ears. The more you talk, the less valuable your words become. While on the flip side, the more you listen and the less you talk, the more powerful and effective your words become.
Things we can all work on: Talk less. Listen more. Focus on those in front of you instead of in your phone or staring off at every distraction that catches your peripheral vision.