I like to talk.

I have been known to over-talk.

This is what happens when I go to the dark side. I have a strong point of view and I will let you know. And darn it, sometimes you don’t respond. My unchecked instinct is to keep talking UNTIL YOU DO! The more I talk, the more impassioned I will get, the more stone-faced you become.

Not pretty.

Being habitually silent does not work in a business meeting. We abdicate our ability to influence. We stifle our voice.

Also not pretty.

Choosing to shut up when we really long to talk can be the most inspired choice. Silent not because we are afraid to talk. Silent because our silence will advance the conversation.

How do we know when it’s time to shut up? Here are 3 simple considerations.

Does it need to be said?

Whenever you have a compelling urge to speak, especially when you know that your conversation partners may have a strong reaction to what you will say, do a gut check. Ask yourself these 2 questions:

  • Does it need to be said?
  • Am I the one who needs to say it?

If your answer to both questions is an unequivocal YES, say it. If not – it may be time to shut up. (This one dooms meetings all the time.)

Has it already been said?

If someone else has already said it, I don’t need to say it again. If I have already said it, I don’t need to say it again. Trust that ONCE IS ENOUGH. Repeating the same old point again, no matter how passionate you are about it, is a surefire way of giving up your social influence.

It may be time to shut up. (This one also dooms meetings.)

Can I say it succinctly?

Here are 2 little guidelines to gauge an optimal level of conversation-contribution:

  • If you’re telling a pertinent story, take all the time you want. Your story will live in the scintillating details.
  • If you wish to make a point, make it in 4 sentences or less. Short sentences, not long rambling ones.

Even if the point you wish to make is complex, don’t unload all of the complexity on me at once. Deliver complexity one message at a time. 4 sentences or less.

If you can’t break it down for me, it may be time to shut up.

When I first became a corporate trainer back in the 90s, I was mentored by two very different colleagues.

Janice was a diva. She could spin circles around a message. Was frequently entertaining.

Scott was a master-distiller. He could convey a message in a sentence. The message was always essential. Simple and clear. Deep.

Scott knew when to shut up. And when he spoke, it mattered.

Scott was the brilliant one.

Habitual silence will render you impotent. Strategic silence will accelerate your social influence.

Be the brilliant one. Know when to shut up.

 

About Achim Nowak

Achim Nowak is an author, speaker, C-Suite coach, and international authority on personal presence. His book The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World (New Page Books) has just been published. His previous books have become prized resources for entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives around the globe. Achim and his work have been featured on 60 Minutes, Fox News, NPR, in The New York Times and The Miami Herald.

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