The Substance Behind The Noise

We often try to persuade others through argument. But arguing does not change minds — if anything, it makes people more intransigent. It turns out that listening is far more persuasive than speaking.

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. In silence, it can be easier to reach the truth.

There is almost always more substance below the surface of what people say than there is in their words. They have issues they are not willing to reveal. Agendas they won’t share. Opinions too unacceptable to make public. We can hear all those things — and more — when we keep quiet. We can feel the substance behind the noise.

When you’re silent you can better pick up on what’s not being said — cues that signal how someone is feeling (Is the person upset about something and that’s why he’s not willing to hear you out right now?) and help you figure out how to respond. Because words can so often get in the way, silence can help you make these connections.

Next time you disagree with others, put your opinions away and try just listening. Let them speak into the silence and listen for the truth behind their words. Then acknowledge what you’ve heard (which is, most likely, more than has been said) and, once the others feel seen and heard, offer your view.

Summing-up: If you disagree with someone, try listening, not arguing. But not use silence as a way to manipulate the views of others. You have to use silence with respect.

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