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Silence Is A Golden Strategy


By Leadership - Posted on 02 January 2011

SilenceSilence is a perfectly appropriate option in certain situations. The truth is that silence communicates. It does so very powerfully when used right. The expectation (rightly so) is that a leader should be decisive and should not be afraid of speaking out his/her decisions. Some young leaders misunderstand this expectation as the need to provide opinion even in the middle of transactions. Some of them also feel very impulsive about it and fear compromising their leadership image/ position if they did not speak out. Sometimes there is pressure from the followers to make the leader say or do something. Smart leaders understand all this. They use silence when and where it is appropriate.

The jury in a court room is silent throughout the hearing. Interestingly both the defense and prosecution counsel are constantly trying to draw a message out of that silence.

The judge rarely speaks during any hearing. He only moderates until the very end.

I recently watched a movie by name “Out Of Africa”. Meryl Streep unknowingly places herself without defense in lion territory. A lion inquisitively advances towards her. She gets a golden advice from a friend to remain calm and still. No adrenaline rush, no impulsive movements, no sound. She does so effectively and the lion walks away.

Mahatma Gandhi, in his book “The Search For Truth” narrates an incident where he was confronted by a cobra which was threatening to strike. He just stood calm and still and the snake calmed down and slithered away.

Chanakya strongly believed in surprise as one of the most effective elements of strategy. Surprise is preceded by silence.

In a game of cards, you never expose your trump cards.

Following statements amplify the power of silence as a useful strategic option.

  • Silence provides the required gap to make an informed choice between stimulus and response.
  • We are constantly judged and modeled based on our output. Silence when used appropriately will provide the power in our hands to shape that model (how others perceive us).
  • Silence has the effect of bringing calm to the opponent or even a partner when such silence is non-threatening.
  • Silence is a strategic platform for delivering surprise in any strategy.

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