It’s your first time in an office, first time in a “real” job and your first time speaking in a room where you aren’t called on when you raise your hand and everyone has years of experience under their belt. You’re not sure if you should be trying to contribute a lot or bouncing ideas off of your co-workers, but the one thing you do know is that you don’t want to be silent. However, silence might be the most underutilized skill that “new kids” can use in a meeting.
For budding, type-A, go-getters, it can be hard not to fill in the empty space. But if you can harness silence to reign in and organize your hundred-mile-a-minute thought processes, what comes next might surprise you.
Mastering the art of silence was one of the first tasks I took on at Curley Company. I was always the girl with her hand up in class, and always spoke my mind in our Student Government meetings. I always had something to say, and my words were always ten steps ahead of my thoughts. On my first day at Curley, Jennifer challenged me to use my ideas and enthusiasm for “good, not evil.” So I forced myself to be a sponge and decided just to listen. I developed a method for active listening via preparedness so that if I were asked to contribute, my thoughts were concise and strategic. It also helped me resist the urge to jump in!
Four weeks later, I travelled back up to my university for a retreat with the Board of Trustees. As the youngest in the room, I knew this was the time to practice and put my work to the test. Discussing changes to their beloved alma mater always gets the trustees in the room a little heated. By the last day, everything was on the table from the trustees, but my colleague, the other Student Delegate, and I had not yet weighed in on the topics. I waited patiently for our turn to speak, and I was prepared and poised with four pages of notes and three bullet points to drive home.
With three sentences carefully crafted and refined over three days, I weighed in on the topic. I was strategic and concise. That was our plan, and it succeeded.
When used strategically, silence can be a hidden gem in your arsenal of skills. By knowing when to emphasize quality over quantity, you can master the skill of the strategic strike and really move a room surrounded by experts in the field.
Shhh…it’s a secret!