Do you know the feeling of saying something and later kicking yourself thinking “I shouldn’t have said that… why didn’t I say … instead!?”
Look at this comment I found
And this one
I’ve felt that in some shape or form more times than I can count but after discovering the power of being quiet in the right moments and learning how to become a silent person, I’ve often had situations where I wanted to comment on something but said nothing. Afterwards, I’ve usually been happy with the decision.
A neat side effect is that it can help make us feel more confident in social situations because we get to think more about what we say. That leads to us saying something smarter than just the first thing that crossed our mind and we look better since we have time to judge how it’s going to be perceived before we say it.
It also gives other people more room in the situation. Most people don’t like someone who is overly dominating in all conversations. It becomes too much.
A great example is Chandler from Friends who often responds with a joke in situations where it could also be just as viable to say nothing like in this example.
It can break the tension as it often does but it can also be perceived as needy or annoying. As if we are desperate for attention or approval from the person we are having a conversation with.
To stay in the same lane, let’s look at another example from Friends on how Richard uses silence to be perceived by the friends and the audience as more dominant, thoughtful and perhaps even a mysterious, thoughtful, thinker.
The trick is to not overdo it. Like many others, you might have felt frustrated with Ryan Gosling’s role in Drive where he barely says anything and can feel frustratingly slow to respond.
The pros and cons of being a silent person
Many of us like the idea of the silent, thoughtful man who oozes power, mystery and confidence like the most interesting man in the world.
Yet, at the same time as we might dream of being similar we can’t relate to the ideal. In many ways it is a 2d character living in our heads like someone from a TV show that appears cool because we only see that side of the person instead of all the other sides that comes with life as a real human being.
Being silent and quiet is great in some situations but counterproductive in others. To some, it can even come across as intimidating and the old school dictator type that wants everyone to bow before him. Not a great way to inspire a team at work or make close friends that can relate to you.
It’s a subtle tweak that makes all the difference in how we are being perceived. In a minute I’ll show you two–just two–small tricks you can use to change that starting today.
While some people have recognized the trait of being silent and worked to adopt it, others are quiet due to their upbringing and as a result of other things like being shy, arrogant or they simply think more before saying anything.
Being a silent person has it’s pros and cons depending on who you ask since the same trait will be seen differently depending on who you ask.
One person might appreciate the thoughtfulness while another feels frustrated because they feel as if they have to carry the conversation and pull it out of the other person. The opposite can also be true where one person might feel frustrated with someone who isn’t quiet and that they are just talking and talking without any substance behind it.
My point is that becoming a silent person isn’t just a good thing, it’s much more complex than that. A powerful way to figure out how you want to come across is by thinking about who you want to become a silent person towards. Is it with your friends, at work or with your spouse? Or with all three?
Each of these three might perceive the silence in a different way. Your spouse might be concerned that something is wrong, especially if you are usually not quiet. At work it might make you seem busier or afraid of speaking up.
The downside is that some people might misjudge the silence\ and think we are shy, cold and in some cases even arrogant. It’s a fine line to walk.
So before putting the tricks into practice, consider how you might be perceived when you do it. If you are not sure, put it to a test and experiment with it for a week to see what happens. You can always revert back if you don’t get the result you were looking for.
Here are some of the ways you might come across if you become a silent person:
- As though you value other people’s opinion more
- When you do speak it will be perceived with more importance if you don’t speak often
There are so many tips on how to become a silent person out there but I like to think that you don’t need a long list of garbage tips. What are you going to do with 417 tips? It’s way too overwhelming.. Where do you even start?
Instead, If you are serious about making a change, stop browsing and put some of them into action every day for the next week and watch what happens. I’ve highlighted two of my favorite practical tips, so you’ll actually see a difference if you try them out.
How to become a silent person with the two second technique
There are many tricks and the best place to start is by waiting two seconds before you talk. It will feel like an eternity at first and give you the chance to think if this is REALLY something that needs to go down in history as something important to say. If not, stay quiet.
This sounds easy but will be challenging in practice because we have to undo many years of work on the opposite behavior. That is normal.
It is important that you don’t beat yourself up if you find this challenging. We all fail sometimes. Rather than beat yourself up about it, work to recognize when it happens and instead of getting mad at yourself, tell yourself that everyone struggles with this.
A normal habit gets reinforced in our minds each time we do it, so imagine how many times we have practiced speaking when we might have wanted to stay quiet in the past. It happens so many times over so many days that we are really good at it by now! Just like cigarettes are notorious for creating a habit quickly because people smoke several times a day, so do we with speaking.
Two seconds sounds like nothing but to feel the difference, try it out by pulling out the stopwatch on your phone and let it run for two seconds. Still feels like nothing? Call up a friend but when they answer, you have to wait two seconds before responding (use that stopwatch again).
Once you get used to doing that in every conversation, begin spending that moment before speaking to decide if what you are about to say is really something that needs to be said. Often it isn’t and we are doing it out of habit.
Get comfortable with awkward silence
The second trick is to use silence to your advantage when you don’t know what to say. This feels challenging at first, especially if you hate awkward silence. It is so powerful that it is often used as a sales technique to push the prospect to break the silence and buy. See for yourself here
The reality is that sometimes, we just don’t know what to respond in a situation and so we blurt out something because we feel as if we have to relieve the tension in the air, make the other person feel at ease or break the awkward silence. Sometimes the situation is better left in silence.
That is especially true when someone asks a rhetorical question (one that isn’t intended to be answered) like Chandler from Friends often does.
Notice in the clip how the other friends are (not) responding and imagine if instead of staying silent they had said something back or continued the joke. It would be a bit too much.
I’ve found that the easiest way to stay silent when you would otherwise speak, is to practice with small bits at a time. First try it with someone you know well if you feel that might be easier. Begin by staying silent for a few seconds and increase the amount of time you are silent over time.
- Becoming a silent person has it’s advantages but it isn’t only a good thing since there are many complex situations where it could it perceived differently
- A small tweak to your daily speaking habits can make all the difference but if you overdo it, it becomes frustrating for others
- Wait two seconds before you speak and practice using silence to your advantage. Sometimes it is more powerful than anything we could ever say