Silence is Golden
Silence for the mind is just as important as proper nutrition for the body. Strong leadership directed either towards your own life or that of others, demands not just speed and action but also the courage to slow down and be still.
One of the greatest challenges in today’s times is to find the courage to make space for yourself. You can’t always get away from noise or disconnect from smart technology, but you CAN increase your silent time.
In his book In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, George Prochnik says that we shouldn’t think of the noise surrounding us as only a pollution issue. Rather, he says, we should think of it also as a dietary issue: “Our aural diet is miserable. It’s full of over-rich, non-nutritious sounds served in inflated portions - and we don’t consume nearly enough silence. A poor diet kills; but it kills as much because of what it does not contain as from what it includes.”
Tuning out the noisy world helps managers and leaders develop the ability to reflect and grow. Great leaders know how to use this to get the best out of their teams. The successful one is intuitively aware of the power of silence and is very comfortable when this happens during the conversation. And, it is the inexperienced leader who feels the discomfort in such situations.
Are you comfortable with silence in a conversation? Are there situations where silence helped in your own journey of self-discovery? Everyday leadership begins with the silence inside of us; it is the platform of our own self-knowledge. Here are four interesting ways you can practice it:
- Un-Plug: Call it what you will - Going off the grid, unplugging, disconnecting, digital detox, shutting down; taking conscious breaks from technology is essential to our productivity and our overall mental health. And that’s why making sure your employees are aware of, understand the restorative powers of, and regularly partake in a digital detox is a responsibility that, as leaders, lies squarely on our shoulders.
- Step Back: When there is a particularly stressful meeting or conversation you are about to go into either with a client or a team-member, try to silence your thoughts for a couple of minutes to think, reflect, step away from the pressures of the situation which is not like the environment of going in there to attack the task at hand. The leader’s skill lies in stepping back differentiates the process of the discussion.
- Listen More:
In case you’re thinking listening-centric leadership is a fleeting fad, it has actually been around for thousands of years! In fact, Lau Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher wrote: A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
So the next time you’re heading up a meeting and you need to hear some ideas, thoughts, etc. make sure you are giving your team and yourself every opportunity to contribute. A few extra seconds longer than you would normally wait is usually all it takes. In fact silence is a greatly underestimated source of power. In silence, we can hear not only what is being said but also what is not being said.
- Switch and Shift: It is only through silence and stillness that we can come to our thoughts in any meaningful way and from that spring, take action we think best. Successful leaders do not consciously work towards creating an atmosphere of silence and instead capture and benefit from the moments as they happen.
Truth be told, we’re not likely to stop using our smart phones and headphones. Instead, our goal should be to consume more silence. It will help keep the noise from deafening us. And it will certainly help keep it from demoralizing us. Besides, silence is what makes sound meaningful in the first place.