|Is silence trategic ? - Ms. Fay Niewiadomski
|COMMUNICATION IS MORE THAN WORDS
Funny! Whenever we think of communication we always think of speech. Very few of us would associate communication with silence. And yet those of us who have looked into the eyes of another person with whom we have established a finely tuned communication link, can easily understand the power of messages that transcend speech.
THE POWER OF SILENCE
In fact, the more powerful the message the more ineffectual the speech. Those moments of intense meaning, if expressed in words would only serve to underline the inadequacy of the words. But does silence have a place in business situations? If you ask the Japanese, they would tell you that it is self-evident. Silence gives you time. The time needed for critical evaluation before you utter words you may regret. Words can bind you or free you, ethically at least.
YES, IT IS
Silence is strategic, if you know how to use it and how to understand it.
Two men sat in the outer office of an important businessman. As often happens, life in the office was being conducted as usual while these two men waited patiently for their turn to see the businessman. One of these men was passing the time away by conducting an intense internal personal dialog with himself. As he focused his attention inwardly, the outer world seemed to fade into the background until he became almost unaware of the activity around him. The other man focused his attention outwardly observing and listening intensely to the proceedings in the office. Both men were silent , each in his own way.
The man who focused his attention outwardly, walked into the office of the businessman when his turn came, and in 30 minutes he left with a smile on his face. He had achieved, with great ease, the objective for which he had set up an appointment.
The man who has focused his attention inwardly sat in the office of the businessman much longer and talked more intensely, but he left with a dark scowl on his face. He had not achieved the purpose for which he had set up an appointment. His silence had not been strategic.
How can we enter the mind? How can we know our thoughts and the thoughts others? How can some things be so simple for some people and so complex and insoluble for others? How?
ARE YOU CRAZY ?
As a young doctor doing his internship in a psychiatric hospital, Milton H. Erickson, M.D. was given some really hard cases. These were cases viewed as hopeless by the other doctors and it was a matter of amusement for them to see how the 'greenhorn' intern would handle them.
One patient in particular was a chronic case with a 'messiah complex'. This man was convinced that he was Jesus Christ and spent his days wrapped in a sheet, standing on a soapbox, preaching to the other patients. For ten years the other doctors had tried to persuade this man to join the occupational therapy sessions and had repeatedly failed. Silently, Erickson reflected on this patient's case, approached the man and solved the problem within 30 seconds. How?
Erickson casually approached the man:
E: Hello, I understand you are a carpenter.
M: That's right. How did you know?
E: I also hear that you like to help people.
M: That's true.
(Erickson took out a hammer he had been hiding behind his back and handed it to the man.)
E: They are doing some construction work in the east wing of the hospital and they need your help.
With these words, the man willingly and happily went in and joined the occupational therapy sessions and continued to go on a regular basis. The older doctors stared in utter amazement. Erickson had successfully entered the man's mind. How?
OH YEAH ?
How indeed? And what has all this got to do with management and the strategic use of silence? Management is often defined as "getting things done with and through other people." There are a few ways in which the 'getting things done' can be achieved: coercion, persuasion, 'the carrot and stick method' and team work. Silence is strategic for all four methods. I will, however, only discuss the importance of silence for team work. Why? Because technologically advanced businesses can only succeed with effective leadership by multi-disciplinary teams headed by courageous and wise decision makers.
IF YOU ARE SO SMART, TELL ME HOW !
Don't talk out loud! Switch off your internal talking machine! Stop visualizing yourself on vacation with the man or woman of your dreams! Stop reliving some of the best moments of your life! Just be quiet! Stop all the internal 'sound and fury' of your thoughts and emotions. Yes. You need to be very silent so you can hear the thoughts and feelings of the people with whom you have spent ten years and maybe more, and whom you still haven't met. Look around your business? How many people do you dare say you know well enough to manage as a team?
YOU CAN DO IT IF YOU REALLY WANT
Can you walk up to them the way Dr. Milton H. Erickson, M.D. walked up to a deluded patient and wiped away ten years of impotence? Can you really manage by "getting things done with and through other people?" Use 'strategic silence' to listen to other people's models of reality, to other people's fears, to other people's needs and to the secret codes of each one's special language. They are offering you the keys, but you must be silent so you do not miss their calls.
Ms. FAY NIEWIADOMSKI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ICTN - International Consulting and Training Network (www.ictn.com)