I’m the type of person who can talk to a wall. For most of my life, this didn’t have disadvantages. It allowed me to make friends more easily and fed my curiosity.
Then I entered the real world, full of conference calls, where there was never enough time for everyone to speak. Thanks for a courageous director, I received the very helpful feedback to pause, be more intentional with my words and embrace silence. I wish someone would have told me that sooner!
Before that conversation, silence held a negative connotation for me. If you were silent after I spoke, you disagreed with what I said or were disengaged. In actuality, that’s not always the case. Often, especially in virtual settings, silence can mean that someone is processing what you just said, so they can share a thoughtful response.
I had been practicing this notion of embracing the silence when I began coach training in March. There again I got the feedback to slow down a bit and give my coachee time to process (hold the space as we call it). It wasn’t always easy but the more I did it, the more it paid off.
Then, this radical idea occurred to me. If I want to slow down, be more present and intentional, then maybe I too needed more silence in my life. Since I’m the type of person who constantly has music/podcasts on, this idea intrigued me. So after my March coaching class, I tried it out – silence for the first few minutes of my morning and the last few minutes of my night. Here’s how it’s helped:
- If I’m overstimulated (think post board meeting or networking event), the silence helps me center and come back down, making it easier to fall asleep.
- I find it easier to visualize my intention for the day when it’s quiet. This exercise provides me with clarity on what my immediate and long term priorities are.
- I am more intentional when I share on calls at work, really thinking about my reason for speaking and the words I’m selecting to articulate.
Believe me, I still play a lot of music but I’m learning silence has its benefits. Now at work, I recognize how talking too much can have its drawbacks. There’s a place and time for all voices to be heard but overuse can lead to a belief that the person who speaks that much likes the sound of his/her voice. That’s not what I want my brand to be. I’ve noticed too that staying silent in meetings allows me to absorb what people are saying and hear what’s not being said.
Don’t worry, my voice is still definitely heard…now the words are making more of an impact.
What’s your feeling about silence? Share in the comments!