By Gaudence Were—
One of the phrases that can be used after a confrontation is “cowered into silence.” Silence has often been associated with weakness and defeat. However, that is not entirely true for a description. Did you know that you would be better off silent and be listening rather than speaking if you mastered the art of silent/soft power? Here are some of the ways in which you could use silence to your advantage.
a. During public speaking/ presentations/ ordinary conversations.
Public speaking and conversations with other people require strong interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. To effectively engage in the former and the latter, one ought to observe the good use of nonverbal skills even as he/she engages the audience verbally. Things like appropriate facial expressions, maintaining eye contact and use of gestures when necessary have to be put to good use.
To keep your listener attentive, give them breaks to digest what you have said. These breaks must be short and deliberate. Do not make them too long so that you end up in awkward or embarrassing silence. For instance, you can give a point and pause. You may then proceed to illustrate the point and give a long pause. Through this, your audience will even have time to connect with your presentation as they engage in self-exploration and find time to collect their thoughts.
Additionally, you may use silence as a sign of empathy; as it is evidence that you are a good listener. This may help you to wiggle out of uncomfortable situations. Silence also offers you a great opportunity to shift the burden of the conversation to the other party thereby initiating a forced turn-taking. In a presentation, the audience will then be encouraged to ask questions and participate in recaps.
Often, we are advised to speak about things that are heavy on our minds, to express ourselves in order to improve our emotional, physical and general well-being. However, silence can sometimes be good enough self-therapy. You can use silence to facilitate inner reflection, encourage self-responsibility, understand your feelings and emotions, compose yourself and to strategize. Sometimes the answers that you seek are not with other people, but solely with you. Silence is one of the best purging techniques that offers you a gateway to connect with your inner true self.
c. Stamp of authority
Silence used to effect stamp of authority must be calculated and intentional lest it be seen as a mistake or sign of uncertainty. When with juniors, you can use silence in a productive and purposeful manner to strengthen authority. For instance;
When in an altercation, remain silent to show that you are unshaken and to maintain a certain line of argument. The goal of using silence in this situation is to establish a position and to emphasize your points/a certain point on that position. This eventually has better effects compared to getting into day-long arguments eventually affecting your relationship with other people. Through silence, you will also manage to build trust amongst your colleagues and friends as you establish yourself as a listener.
Engage in active silence to achieve a specific result especially in negotiations. Have the other party carry the burden of the conversation so that you slowly build your way towards the upper hand.
d. Outmanoeuvring your superiors.
It is essential to have good working relations, especially with your superiors. You must at all times avoid situations that may be regarded as insubordination. Perhaps one of the best ways to manage a boss who is a control freak is to serve them with periodic bouts of silence to make it impossible for them to gauge what you are thinking. This will tend to protect you from systemic and/or unexpected attacks. Couple the use of silence together with persuasive argumentation and you might not only be protecting yourself and maintaining good working relations but also branding yourself as a soft power machine in the office.
e. Silence when you have nothing to say.
Lastly, when you have nothing to say, remain silent. Do not rush to make small talk to cover up for voids. Learn to be comfortable in silence. Perhaps you might be in the company of other people but might not have prepared for the official discussion at hand. Remain silent as you actively listen. Pick out key points and build your arguments from the same.
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