Why Silence Can Be a Communicator’s Best Tool

No phones, watches, TV, devices, music, books, magazines. That’s what I encountered on a recent women’s weekend. This seemed extreme; until, they took extreme one step further … by telling us we couldn’t speak.

Could I survive? When you are 2,000 miles from home and 8,000 feet above sea level, what choice do you have? Well, aside from a few stolen whispers, I not merely survived – I wondered how I had survived without it.

As a professional communicator, this got me thinking about the messages I produce for others to consume. About all the noise my messages generate. How I’m posting, blogging, tweeting, writing and scripting. Creating the exact absence of silence. 

Do I worry more about the frequency of my messaging versus approaching my audience only when I have something of value to share?

Now Here’s Some Noise

  • 340 million tweets per day
  • 140 million+ active Twitter users
  • 150 million+ LinkedIn users
  • Every second, two people join LinkedIn.
  • 800+ million monthly active Facebook users
  • 400+ million daily active Facebook users

Source: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook

A few words

We all probably know people who listen more than they speak. And when they do speak, we want to hear it. Not hearing them is like missing a moment of gold. The kind of gold we communicators spend a career attempting to strike.

In my life, that person is my 72-year-old uncle Charlie. After introducing Uncle Charlie to my favorite city, New York, I asked for his impression. All he said was, “I’d do it again.”

Four words. 16 characters. A tweet on a diet.

In one second, my uncle Charlie summed up the world’s flashiest city, and rightfully deemed it a city worth a do-over.  

Recently, I was at a meeting where the following question was posed, “Can you tell a story in six words?” Sure, I thought. I don’t know how but it could be done. The speaker continued, “Yes, you can,” and then offered this example: “Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.”

Embrace silence

As communicators, we shouldn’t fear silence.

Silence doesn’t remove our message from the landscape. It allows our message time to root. It allows us the space to create a stronger voice for our messages. It leaves our audience expectant, because the more we aren’t quiet the more our ability to hear dulls.

Instead of mass messaging, how about ensuring our messages have mass? Do we want to be the company that always has something to say or that always says something?

I’ve come to realize that the loudest sound is the sound that breaks silence.

Let’s be silence breakers. But to do that, we have to allow for the silence first.

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With two busy kids, a husband who is a sports editor, a dog, and lots of client work, Nicole vanEsselstyn finds her “silence” one moment at a time.