Work conversations can be very transactional. It’s not uncommon for professionals to have a different version of the same conversation over and over again. We show up to the office, talk about what needs to get done, and tell our colleagues what we need from them. For the most part, we assume each day will be a carbon copy of yesterday. Sure, there might be unique aspects to each project, but things more or less stay the same.
Unfortunately, what Wallace Stevens might call the “malady of the quotidian” causes us to fail to stay curious and use the Black Swan skills in day-to-day conversations, which creates communication problems in the workplace.
Luckily, you can fix this all-too-common issue by using silence as a tool to boost communication in the workplace.
Communication in the Workplace: The Power of Dynamic Silence™
The Black Swan Group teaches clients to use Dynamic Silence™ after using a skill. For example, the Quick 2+1™ is an exercise in which clients use Labels™ and Mirrors™ to uncover information, then intentionally create a void in the conversation by staying silent and giving their counterpart room to think.
In a work setting, people often feel unheard. If you’re in a leadership role, your subordinates probably feel they’re not being listened to. When someone comes to you with a question, they assume you will answer. What if you don’t?
When a question is met with Dynamic Silence, the person asking the question starts negotiating with themselves and begins a journey of self-discovery. During this process, they often come up with their own answer. More often than not, they come up with YOUR answer.
If someone asks you a question and you respond with a question like you do every time, you fail to get more information and allow your colleague to express the significance of what they’re saying. You’re not letting them feel heard.
Let Other People Be Heard
All of us have had a coworker that we can’t be straightforward with or that consistently shuts down our ideas. We start forming questions and strategies to navigate these verbal roadblocks, but this isn’t the most constructive approach.
Using Dynamic Silence is an easy way to build Tactical Empathy®. When you insert an intentional void in the conversation, your counterpart can freely share information. By giving them the floor and letting them speak their mind, you allow them to feel heard.
In the event it appears as though your use of Dynamic Silence is making your counterpart uncomfortable or putting them in a negative space, it’s time to hang a label on there or move the conversation forward by asking Calibrated Questions™.
Often, people craft their statements in a way that moves the conversation forward. They leave out important information because it might turn the conversation in a direction they don’t want to go. When you use Dynamic Silence as its own technique, you can get your counterpart to open up.
With Dynamic Silence, you give your counterpart space to stew on things. Most of the time, they’ll add that extra information to fill the void.
Dynamic Silence: The Hardest Skill to Master
Dynamic Silence is one of our easiest techniques in theory, but it’s the hardest to master in practice. Generally speaking, silence isn’t a natural part of conversations. In the real world, negotiations are sort of like a tennis match—I say something, you answer me, I respond, and so on until we reach a conclusion.
If you want to become an expert at using Dynamic Silence, you need to practice as much as possible. If you’re used to talking and communicating to get things done, purposefully staying silent will feel awkward. But if you practice and see how silence lands, you’ll be surprised at how your counterpart can fill the gaps you create.
If you notice that your counterpart repeats the question or changes their behavior—by letting out a big sigh or tapping their fingers, for example—you need to break out of the silence to avoid keeping them in a negative space. Use Labels or paraphrasing to get the conversation started again. You don’t want the other side to feel ignored; you simply want to give them time and the illusion of control.
As the old saying goes, it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. Incorporate silence into your daily repertoire and communication in the workplace will be better than ever before.
Now that you understand the power of silence, brush up on Black Swan’s other core skills by checking out this infographic.