The Art of Shutting Up

So I have an idea…it’s not a new idea, but it is one that will help you learn more about people, glean more information about them, and to get them talking. You ready for it? Here it is…

Shut up!

Yes…that’s right…I want you to shut up. There are a couple of reasons for this strategy (yes I just called shutting up a strategy).

1. People process the question.

When people are asked to respond to a question sometimes it takes them a little longer to think of the response they would like to give. Sometimes as listeners we think they might not understand the question so we try to rephrase it. Don’t do it…just shut up…they will let you know if they don’t understand the answer!

2. People process their thoughts

Remember when you were talking about that thing you were really passionate about and you took a minute to process your thoughts mid-story and then the person listening cut-in and asked a new question or told you a story about themselves? You never did finish that story did you? If you are listening to a person talk and they leave a little bit of silence, make sure they are done talking before you open your mouth. Take a look at their non-verbal communication and look into their eyes…if you’re paying attention, you’ll know when they are done talking and you can open your yapper.

3. Silence is awkward

I love awkwardness. Weird right? Nothing like a good awkward moment. However, not many people like them. They don’t like silence because no one is talking, but people are still looking at each other. Remember the time that you had a bunch of people over and then all of a sudden the conversation stopped? Awkward right? Here is where you can use this silence to go deeper in conversation with someone (I recommend doing this in a one-on-one situation as opposed to a group).

Picture this:

So you’re having a conversation (you’re the listener) and the talker is talking about surface level things and a little bit of the deeper things that are going on for them. Once they have exhausted everything they think you should know, they stop talking. You stay silent, maintain eye contact (not creepy like) and keep an open posture, but don’t say anything. The talker realizes you are still listening, feels awkward with the silence, and starts talking again, but now, is going deeper into what they were just talking about. They are now giving you the raw emotions that you are looking for.

See how that works? Go ahead…try it out…just remember…when you are tempted to speak into the silence…shut up!

                        author

Jason Dykstra

Jason is a Conflict Management Specialist who is helping organizations and congregations move from conflict situations to creative solutions. He specializes in relational and communication issues and uses his experience and training in mediation, group facilitation, conflict management coaching, speaking and teaching to aid you and your surroundings to better… MORE >

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