The Power of Silence

    Alison Freeman, Executive Communications Coach and Strategist

    In today’s hyper-connected, over-stimulated world, every waking moment is spent checking devices, managing deadlines, posting opinions, and on and on I could go. The power of silence is a lost art.

    But, why should we – as communicators – care about silence? After all, people pay us to communicate!

    In fact, I used to think of my mouth as my most vital organ. My success was defined by my ability to articulate something and have it be understood. But after spending nearly 20 years as an executive communications coach and strategist, that misconception was debunked. I learned that silence, used thoughtfully and strategically, affords us the opportunity to be present, establish mutual respect for others, listen and really think before we speak.

    Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

    When silence is put into practice, it actually helps build personal brands, create meaningful connections and establish confidence in the workplace.

    And, (bonus!) It helps amplify our soul speak (I’ll explain).

    Confidence in the Workplace
    Think about how silence is used in the professional world. Therapists and investigators alike use silence as a tool to get folks to open up. While interviewers use silence as a strategy to see how candidates conduct themselves, and negotiators see silence as a powerful stalling tactic.

    In presentations, introducing pauses, particularly after a key message, lends greater credibility and adds impact to the message. And, when coaching or mentoring an employee, pausing creates a safe place for them to share their thoughts, and lets that person know you’re actively listening.

    Silence can indicate contemplation or empathy; authority and power; confidence versus insecurity.

    To quote the remarkable Mark Twain, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” This is SO true!

    Meaningful Connections
    Silence is also key in relationships – and we all have them. Friendships, significant others, children, coworkers…

    But, did you know that the root cause of most upsets in relationships stem from miscommunication?

    Good communication starts with listening to build trust. THEN it’s okay to open up and share your perspective. A few words of wisdom on this – leave selfish conversations behind. They don’t allow for trust, understanding, satisfaction, productivity, teamwork or accomplishment.

    I’ve always said, if you’re speaking, you aren’t learning. End of story.

    Soul Speak: Your Inner Well-Being
    Being quiet is hard. Within seconds, the mind scatters.

    But, sometimes it’s necessary for our inner well-being to rid our lives of the noise. In fact, multiple clinical studies have said regular mindfulness practices and meditation lead to a more positive emotional state.

    Let me share a personal story.

    Three years ago, my husband left me – after 20 years of marriage. Simultaneously, my business partnership was ending, I was having bi-lateral knee surgery, I was trying figure out how to sell my house (and buy a new one), and my son was going off to college.

    I was going crazy, and I desperately needed to rid my life of the noise.

    I decided to take a trip to a Tibetan Monastery for a “silence retreat” (and I mean total silence). Ironically, it was deafening. There was no internet, no devices, no TV, no talking – just complete and utter silence and meditation.

    But through this, the noise eventually subsided, and I realized that silence isn’t empty (despite the common misconception) – it’s full of answers.

    I found my inner well-being again.

    I suspect as IABC members, you are all great communicators. But, I encourage you all to understand and embrace the power of silence.

    If you’d like me to share a deeper version of this topic with you and your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to


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