When Silence Always Beats Talk

Silence, when
supported by intelligent questioning, is easily one of the most useful interpersonal
tools in the managerial repertoire. Silence inevitably beats talk for enhancing
higher order thinking, including complex analysis, evaluation, creativity,
problem solving and decision making. The problem is that managers are either
ignorant of its use, or—more significantly—the magnitude of change required is
prohibitive. Indeed, research in educational settings reveals that the required
change to an effective wait-time is of the order of 600%. The consequence?
Silence nerves usually take over—and the manager rolls, losing one of the very
best options for human productivity and insight.The silence
processYou read that right. Silence is a process. Call it wait
time, lapse time, pausing or Golden Silence, a term coined by Miller and
Heiman, the sales’ gurus. The original research defined two uses of silence:
wait time I was defined as the
duration of the pause after a question; and wait time II was defined as the duration of the pause after the responder
first answered.When you give your respondent extra time to think about
your question, the information given back is far more likely to be solid
information than if you had given half as much time.
So Golden Silence I and II is a pause for approximately four to six
seconds at two different points in the questioning process. It’s the practice
of waiting after your respondent first answers your question, and then silently
giving that person a second opportunity to add more information. Inevitably
they’ll revise, refine, add, elaborate or explain their previous input. Thus, the
result of using Golden Silence I and II together is a more thoughtful and
ultimately far more productive flow of information than you can possibly create
any other way. In group settings
you can use Golden Silence to improve the quality of group process and
thinking, model interpersonal competency, and with positioning you can draw out
introverts and even close down those too talkative extroverts.You’re cynical? Just try it out five or six times. FYI: I
built a million dollar business on golden silence, expert questioning,
thoughtful feedback and direct coaching. But mostly, clients were phenomenally
impressed by the quality of feedback I was able to give them from the 360°
interviewing, information gathering—built on silence and questioning. So to see
a partial list of where these clients either have been employed or are
presently employed, check my website here.Multiple benefitsThe benefits of strategic silence have been replicated
multiple times by numerous studies and researchers over more than 40 years. You
can count on the following benefits by two uses of silence over extended wait
times:               *the
actual number of responses increase.               *the
responses become more comprehensive.               *the
reliability of information increases.               *the
incidence of open-ended speculative thinking increases.               *there
is a notable decrease in the number of people failing to respond.               *the
focus shifts from the questioner to the responder and/or the group members.               *the
questioner gains more time to consider further questions and information.Thinking advancesThe notion that conversational productivity can be
increased merely by using Golden Silence alone is too simplistic. However, when
planned conversations with planned questions and silence are used interpersonally or in
groups, individuals will typically go beyond remembered facts, basic data or
applying solutions to problems. Silence provides them the opportunity, for
example, to reflect, process and interrelate facts, issues or problems, all tasks
of critical thinking. Without Golden Silence problem definition can be simplistic,
failing when resolutions are complex. Indeed, the common notion that the business
person has to talk quickly when questioned, claim air time, or just speak up
and put something on the tableis no
way to deal with significant issues. Sadly, the business world has created a
situation where the thinking person has to have a lot of guts to slow down
conversations and deal appropriately with complex issues. However, the astute
facilitator or leader, a person who understands the necessity of silence, will
make those times available in one-on-ones as well as in team situations.Plan your
questions and your silenceFour or five seconds is a long time in most
conversations, making Golden Silence very difficult to learn. In the early
stages of learning, I’ve found that silently counting “one thousand, two
thousand, three thousand, etc.” can be very useful. Otherwise, you’ll find
yourself succumbing to silence nerves and interrupting far too soon. Again, both
my experience as well as the research emphasize this very strongly.Intentional communicators plan their conversations,
creating talking points and questions, giving silence a definite role in the
achievement of their objectives.One of my clients, a former front line spotter for the
Marines says, recently told me that “shooting blind“ didn’t work in Afghanistan
and that it failed in his early conversations with a university faculty member
and his teaching assistant. As a consequence, I coached him in the processes of
intentional conversation and intentional silence. Since he was very used to
talking too much, I suggested he “sit on your hands, keep your mouth closed and
engage in Golden Silence.” At the next coaching session he said that he was
actually shocked to observe how different and productive planned silence could
be. He got what he wanted and a lot more from the TA. But, he added the caveat,
 it was “hard to do.” I’d warned him of
that.Like far too many, my young client considered himself a
capable, “good communicator.” I let him have it. The notion of good communication,
widely prevalent among business people, is largely bullshit. They’ve bought
into the notion that if they can talk without offending anyone, making anyone
defensive and avoiding embarrassment, they’re good communicators. Ultimately,
that’s just wasted time and anything but “good communication.” Thus, the
research makes clear that most conversations entail more than 50% misunderstanding,
making breakdowns inevitable. One of the major keys out of that morass is the
use of Golden Silence I and II, supported by thoughtful, planned questions.In sum, when the purpose of a conversation is merely
recall or rote data, it’s wise to use a short wait time. However, when the
intent and outcome of conversations is critical analysis, significant
evaluation, problem solving, decision making or creativity, then Golden Silence
I and II is a necessary tool for business achievement and productivity.Flickr photo: xmagicmushroomx
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When Silence Always Beats Talk

 Silence
Silence, when supported by intelligent questioning, is easily one of the most useful interpersonal tools in the managerial repertoire. Silence inevitably beats talk for enhancing higher order thinking, including complex analysis, evaluation, creativity, problem solving and decision making. The problem is that managers are either ignorant of its use, or—more significantly—the magnitude of change required is prohibitive. Indeed, research in educational settings reveals that the required change to an effective wait-time is of the order of 600%. The consequence? Silence nerves usually take over—and the manager rolls, losing one of the very best options for human productivity and insight.

The silence process
You read that right. Silence is a process. Call it wait time, lapse time, pausing or Golden Silence, a term coined by Miller and Heiman, the sales’ gurus. The original research defined two uses of silence: wait time I was defined as the duration of the pause after a question; and wait time II was defined as the duration of the pause after the responder first answered.

When you give your respondent extra time to think about your question, the information given back is far more likely to be solid information than if you had given half as much time.

So Golden Silence I and II is a pause for approximately four to six seconds at two different points in the questioning process. It’s the practice of waiting after your respondent first answers your question, and then silently giving that person a second opportunity to add more information. Inevitably they’ll revise, refine, add, elaborate or explain their previous input. Thus, the result of using Golden Silence I and II together is a more thoughtful and ultimately far more productive flow of information than you can possibly create any other way.

In group settings you can use Golden Silence to improve the quality of group process and thinking, model interpersonal competency, and with positioning you can draw out introverts and even close down those too talkative extroverts.

You’re cynical? Just try it out five or six times. FYI: I built a million dollar business on golden silence, expert questioning, thoughtful feedback and direct coaching. But mostly, clients were phenomenally impressed by the quality of feedback I was able to give them from the 360° interviewing, information gathering—built on silence and questioning. So to see a partial list of where these clients either have been employed or are presently employed, check my website here.

Multiple benefits
The benefits of strategic silence have been replicated multiple times by numerous studies and researchers over more than 40 years. You can count on the following benefits by two uses of silence over extended wait times:

               *the actual number of responses increase.

               *the responses become more comprehensive.

               *the reliability of information increases.

               *the incidence of open-ended speculative thinking increases.

               *there is a notable decrease in the number of people failing to respond.

               *the focus shifts from the questioner to the responder and/or the group members.

               *the questioner gains more time to consider further questions and information.

Thinking advances
The notion that conversational productivity can be increased merely by using Golden Silence alone is too simplistic. However, when planned conversations with planned questions and silence are used interpersonally or in groups, individuals will typically go beyond remembered facts, basic data or applying solutions to problems. Silence provides them the opportunity, for example, to reflect, process and interrelate facts, issues or problems, all tasks of critical thinking. Without Golden Silence problem definition can be simplistic, failing when resolutions are complex. Indeed, the common notion that the business person has to talk quickly when questioned, claim air time, or just speak up and put something on the table is no way to deal with significant issues. Sadly, the business world has created a situation where the thinking person has to have a lot of guts to slow down conversations and deal appropriately with complex issues. However, the astute facilitator or leader, a person who understands the necessity of silence, will make those times available in one-on-ones as well as in team situations.

Plan your questions and your silence
Four or five seconds is a long time in most conversations, making Golden Silence very difficult to learn. In the early stages of learning, I’ve found that silently counting “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, etc.” can be very useful. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself succumbing to silence nerves and interrupting far too soon. Again, both my experience as well as the research emphasize this very strongly.

Intentional communicators plan their conversations, creating talking points and questions, giving silence a definite role in the achievement of their objectives.

One of my clients, a former front line spotter for the Marines says, recently told me that “shooting blind“ didn’t work in Afghanistan and that it failed in his early conversations with a university faculty member and his teaching assistant. As a consequence, I coached him in the processes of intentional conversation and intentional silence. Since he was very used to talking too much, I suggested he “sit on your hands, keep your mouth closed and engage in Golden Silence.” At the next coaching session he said that he was actually shocked to observe how different and productive planned silence could be. He got what he wanted and a lot more from the TA. But, he added the caveat,  it was “hard to do.” I’d warned him of that.

Like far too many, my young client considered himself a capable, “good communicator.” I let him have it. The notion of good communication, widely prevalent among business people, is largely bullshit. They’ve bought into the notion that if they can talk without offending anyone, making anyone defensive and avoiding embarrassment, they’re good communicators. Ultimately, that’s just wasted time and anything but “good communication.” Thus, the research makes clear that most conversations entail more than 50% misunderstanding, making breakdowns inevitable. One of the major keys out of that morass is the use of Golden Silence I and II, supported by thoughtful, planned questions.

In sum, when the purpose of a conversation is merely recall or rote data, it’s wise to use a short wait time. However, when the intent and outcome of conversations is critical analysis, significant evaluation, problem solving, decision making or creativity, then Golden Silence I and II is a necessary tool for business achievement and productivity.

Flickr photo: xmagicmushroomx

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