3 Tales of Shut the Hell Up

February 17, 2011

Posted in Leadership and Personal.

The Chatterbox

A few years ago, I was in a meeting with a group of officers at Notre Dame. I was accompanied by my boss, who insisted that he be present. But during the discussion I was about the speak up and my boss signaled to me to wait – I held my tongue. The rest of the group continued the discussion and they came to the right conclusion, without my $0.02.

Silence can be more persuasive than speaking.

The Stoic Salesman

In the sales world, silence is one of the most effective tools you have. The old adage is that you make your pitch and then you shut up; the next person who speaks “loses.” In reality, silence can be a great negotiation tactic as it forces the other side to doubt, to redouble their efforts, or to work harder to draw you out. It puts them on their heels. When I bought my first car, the salesperson did this to me and I didn’t realize how effectively he had dismantled my negotiation strategy by making me play my cards while he sat in silence.

Silence can give you a tactical advantage.

The Storytelling Chasm

When I give presentations or speak on a topic, I tell a lot of stories. The stories are more memorable than the statistics, tips, or admonitions. And during each story your goal is to take the listener on a journey with you. My favorite part of such stories is the moment of suspense – where you can hear a pin drop and you know you have them in your hand. Nothing crystallizes the effect of this story like a pause – a long pause – that creates just a little bit of discomfort. In this gap, people will hold their breath, they’ll scoot to the edge of their seats, and they’ll ready themselves for the emotional impact of the story. It’s the feeling of being at the top of a roller-coaster climb. Without it, the experience isn’t that impressive.

Silence can make people feel something.