In our professional lives we are often encouraged to speak up, be assertive, take initiative– the list goes on. We’re encouraged to be active participants in the workplace. To be enthusiastic and offer creative solutions. But, it’s not always helpful to open your mouth at every opportunity. In fact, there are plenty of times when the most professional and effective thing you can do is to remain silent. By picking your battles and considering your words, you allow for more impact when you do speak up. Here are some of the ways that you can harness the power of silence at work:
Listen and Observe
With the pressure to show initiative, it’s tempting to try to be the first one to speak up in meetings. You want to be the first to present a new idea, or to react to a colleague’s statement. You’re supposed to be quick-witted and bursting with ideas. But if you are always the first to speak it can actually reduce your effectiveness.
Take the time to listen to your co-workers and gather the facts on a given subject. Hear what everyone else has to say and give others plenty of time to say their piece. Then wait some more. Think about what you’re about to say and make sure that your ideas are well thought out. Present them with tact, and take the ideas and concerns of others into consideration. It’s okay to be the last one to speak on a given subject. In fact, if you do this, you’ll have other’s ideas to use as a springboard. You’ll have had the time to think about your response and to increase its value.
Take a Pass on Gossip and Complaining
Commiserating with colleagues is a slippery slope. It could be trash-talking a co-worker, whining about a project, or griping about a raise. If you always complain about your workplace you’re going to get a bad reputation.
Airing your grievances to everyone makes you unpleasant to be around. People will automatically discredit you before you’ve even said anything. There’s a time and place for speaking up when someone is affecting your ability to do your own work. But incessant complaining or talking about others in petty ways works against you. Keep quiet about the trivial stuff and save your energy for the important issues.
Get Heard at Work – The Power Behind the Pause
When it comes to adding your voice to the mix on relevant work matters, your silence speaks volumes. It demonstrates that you’re listening and thinking before sharing your ideas. A good supervisor or director will listen to what their staff has to say first before weighing in on a topic.
If you have a good idea, feel free to voice it. But don’t speak because you want to be the first one to talk in a meeting. By remaining silent some of the time, people are more likely to listen when you do speak. You’ll gain a reputation as someone who has something worthwhile to contribute.