6 ways silence can make you a better leader

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a point to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante(C) and independent Ariana Huffington during the gubernatorial debateat California State University in Sacramento, California September 24,2003. The recall election is set for October 7. REUTERS/KevorkDjansezian/POOLRG - RTR3KAD

If you use too many words, the point you want to make can get lost. Image: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

Avery Blank
Contributor, Forbes
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Sometimes, words are not all they are cracked up to be. Silence can yield more power than words. Inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic for speaking up for themselves and as an opportunity to lead. Here are six times when leaders use silence to increase their power that can grow your power:

1. Build trust.

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. To build trust, you must listen.

When you want to establish a relationship, do not do all the talking. Introduce yourself, ask questions about the other person and listen. Learn about the other person. When the person realizes you are listening to them, they will listen to you.

2. Emphasize a point.

If you use too many words, the point you want to make can get lost. Silence or fewer words allows you to be heard when it matters.

If you are in a meeting, don’t answer every question that is posed to the group. Respond to one or two questions. Your words will be more memorable than those who chime in at every possible chance to weigh in.

3. Negotiate.

Silence when negotiating can be nerve-wracking. When the other person is silent, you wonder what they might be thinking. Turn the tables. Let them wonder what you are thinking.

Let’s say the other party mentions a salary figure. Do not answer immediately. Don’t say, “I’ll take it” or “No.” Pause. The discomfort of the silence will make the other person want to fill the void and start talking. Let them reveal information that helps you to have the upper hand moving forward in the conversation.

4. Empower others.

Leaders empower others. They rarely tell people what to do. Rather, leaders provide others the opportunity to identify the roadmap for achieving the goals they set out to achieve. Leaders want to know what other people think.

When you propose a new project, ask your reports to share their thoughts with you. Let them speak up with their ideas. Leaders give others the opportunity to lead, helping you to gain respect and increase your power.

5. Get the answer.

The sooner you become silent, the quicker you will get your answer. Many people are guilty of asking a question and not stopping at the question mark. Ask the question, and stop.

Don’t continue on with explanations or excuses. These words dilute your question and the power of its message.

6. Center yourself.

You don’t need other people to reap the power of silence. Take time out of your day to be silent. Hold a moment of silence when you wake up in the morning. Go into a room during the workday, and close the door for a few minutes. Pause just before you go to bed.

Thrive Global Founder & CEO Arianna Huffington says, “We all need time to be alone. We all need time to be still and to be silent.” We can’t be afraid of silence, Huffington suggests. Otherwise, we will burn out and succumb to a position of powerlessness. Leverage opportunities to remove yourself from the noise to center yourself and increase your energy and power.

There are times when silence can speak louder than words. Know when silence will help you more effectively speak up for yourself, lead and increase your power.

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