Sometimes you just need to say nothing

 Jan 2014

behaviourscommunicationin employment
Reference: HBR; inc

If you are the sort of person that likes to fill the silence to save everyone the embarrassment of not knowing what to say, that’s very kind of you, but it’s worth mentioning that some people don’t mind the silence, some people need the silence and some people actively encourage the silence.

For some, silence is a natural part of a conversation. It gives them time to process and it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. The discomfort is yours.

For some cultures that silence is what gives them permission to speak. If you fill the gap too quickly they will never jump in with their views. Oriental people, for example, tend to leave a respectful silence after they have made their point; Western people, on the other hand, tend to talk over each other.

Some people may deliberately leave a silence to see if you will babble and give anything away. They may do this in a meeting or in an interview.

It is a good thing that you want everyone to be comfortable, but do not always take responsibility for the silence. If you are waiting for someone to say something, invite them to say it, don’t just keep talking.