Dr. Nicole Tschierske

Knowing When to Shut Up at Work

„I just had to say that“

„I need to talk it out“

Very rarely does it occur to us that a big part of good thinking and good communication is to be quiet. Giving us time to listen, to process, to let new ideas emerge all on their own.

I understand why. It’s uncomfortable.

We can’t even sit with ourselves for 10 minutes without feeling unproductive. Let alone sitting with our colleagues, our boss even, and not say anything for a while.

But there are good reasons to simply shut up on occasion – here are my favourite three.

Knowing what to say and how to say it. It makes you known. Respected. influential.

But sometimes… we should just shut up.

Changing someone’s mind takes time. And you’re more likely to succeed when you give them time to process what you said, question long-held assumptions, and make space for new thoughts, ideas and possibilities.

In a meeting, when you discussed for a long time and made a decision, ask everyone to be quiet for 1 minute. Let it sink in. Is there anything you missed? Something that’s important to say? Unwanted implications?

When introducing changes in processes and systems, put space between the announcement, the explanation, and the implementation. Give people some time to come to terms with change.

The bigger and the more existential a topic, the less it’s possible to accurately capture it in words. No sentence could objectively describe the situation which continues to remove you from the truth.

Corporate language has a thing to still put words to it. I believe it’s the source of many misunderstandings and conflicts: pretending we all know and agree what we’re talking about, but really we all hold our own version of the truth.

At the same time, admitting that you’re lacking the words for what can’t be said isn’t a sign of ignorance, but a humble acknowledgement of the limitations of our language.

We’re drowning in information noise. Only when it gets quiet, we can give the subject true attention. That’s what allows us to think beyond the obvious, move past the default. In this way, being passive is the most productive action we can take.

It’s when you stop being busy with your own thoughts that you start taking other people’s perspectives. Which in turn will help you better know what to say and how to say it.

Silence brings insight and understanding which benefit your company culture and your bottom line.

On Key

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