I used to be one of those people who was always in an argument. I always felt like I had to be heard. Boy was I wrong.
I have to admit I used to contribute to a lot of communication problems before I learned the value of silence. I didn’t have some light bulb moment. For me, this was more evolutionary in the process of becoming a coach, and the list I’ve shared here has grown out of many different experiences.
For instance, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is to just shut the hell up and get out of the way of true conversation. It’s not to say I don’t have an opinion (I usually do) but my opinion doesn’t always matter. Sometimes, people just want to be heard. Which taught me several of the points on this list.
As a writer, I often get critique and commentary on my writing. I personally love it as it makes me better and also gives me great feedback from another’s point of view. Sometimes though it stings like all hell. So the way I see it, I can get defensive or I can listen to their points. I don’t have to agree, but I also don’t have to argue. See number four.
Recently I was dragged into a conversation amongst some peers and I really just felt the need sit on the fence with it. I had experienced both sides of the topic in question and more than anything, I was aware that it was a pretty futile debate. When I wouldn’t engage them, the main contributor became hostile and inspired number seven on the list below.
Here are 10 damn good reasons why sometimes shutting up is the best thing you can do.
#1 — You can’t listen while you’re talking
Listening is so much more than words. It’s an observation of intent, mannerisms, inflection and emotion that are all being bought into the conversation. Learning through observation is a far better tool that having to prove your point of view.
#2 — You may not be right
Unimaginable, I know but both of you can’t be right. Perhaps you can leave room for the fact that maybe it’s not you this time. And if you are right, then it will prove itself in time so be patient.
#3 — Your opinion doesn’t always matter to them
What is the point of offering your opinion if they don’t value it because they are so heavily invested in their own? If their position is wrong, they will work it out in the fullness of time. It’s only ego that is telling you that yours is more important.
#4 — You aren’t going to change their view – it’s probably as myopic as yours
People can be really one-eyed, and while you can offer alternatives, they aren’t going to buy into your dogma while you are pushing your agenda on them. You might feel like you’ve won a point here or there, but the reality is you only push them further from your opinion or belief. Better to let them go their own way, which really has nothing to do with you.
#5 — You can learn a lot from listening
Giving someone space to speak can be really powerful for both of you. You can both learn from this experience and I often find that people can resolve their own issues, just by being heard. And there is a gift here for you if you watch for it, but you may get a sense of what it is that is frustrating them if you give them space. It’s better to understand than need to be understood.
#6 — You will create space for compassion
This one is a favorite of mine. If you can be silent enough to hear someone else’s story and to view the world through their eyes you will start to see that their path and their experiences were different to yours. You don’t have to agree with their version but compassion opens the door to understanding.
#7 — Sometimes they will show their true intent
This is always cool. You know sometimes if you give people enough time and space they will finally say what it is they are trying to say – we don’t always get it right in the heat of the moment. There are times when their intent will result in damning themselves and there are times when the heat of the moment dies down enough that they will be able to get the words out that show their emotion behind what is driving them.
#8 — It gives you time to think instead of react
Really, if you can start to handle this one your communication problems will be a thing of the past, and all because you shut up for a while. Fancy that! Often we will retort with a comment that we might later regret or realise not to be based on anything other than our own hurt. So we project our own pain instead of hearing someone else’s. If we allow time to absorb what the other has said and then come up with a rational response it will make things way smoother for both of you.
#9 — You’ll be the bigger person
Oh who doesn’t like to be magnanimous occasionally? This could really make you shine, but if you include all the reasons above you’ll not only be a star, but you may have learned something as well
#10 — Maybe you’re talking bullshit
Photo: Flickr/Sean Loyless