How to Use Silence to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence

Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series of crime thriller novels by British author Lee Child.

In the 1997 novel Killing Floor, Reacher randomly exits a Greyhound bus in Georgia and is later arrested in a local diner for a murder he did not commit. While questioned in custody, Reacher wields the power of silence to maintain his personal advantage:

“Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. Silence upsets the arresting officer. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. I was being arrested for murder. But I said nothing.”

Communicate Authority with Silence

Silence holds immense power, especially in situations that involve negotiation.

As inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Dynamic leaders often use silence to their benefit. When handled with intention and purpose, silence is what some leaders call “a communication superpower.”

Do you tend to interrupt, dominate conversations, or explain your perspective from multiple angles in order to sway opinion? If silence is an overlooked resource in your communication toolkit, you might need to change strategies.

Silence can increase your authority and grow your influence in at least four powerful ways.

Silence Builds Trust

According to best-selling author Bryant H. McGill, “one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. And trust begins with listening. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen with the intent to hear, they listen with the intent to reply. When people realize you are truly listening to them, they are much more likely to buy into your ideas.

Silence Can Emphasize Your Point

When you have something important to say, state it briefly and allow a long pause for your words to sink in.

Communication is more than the words we speak, it involves the energy we transmit. When you give room for a lengthy pause, you show people you aren’t scrambling to convince them. And as your words fully land with others, you don’t need to talk as much because silence creates room for people to understand and connect to what you are saying.

Silence Communicates Credibility

Have you ever sat through a meeting where several people squabbled while one person stayed silent?

Eventually, everyone felt tension and curiosity about what the quiet party was thinking. When a silent observer finally interjects an opinion, it speaks louder than the clamor and carries a more memorable quality. “She is so wise,” people think, because sometimes there is a credibility that can only be communicated through silence.

Also, it never hurts to take a lengthy period of time to think before commenting. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Silence Increases Negotiating Power

A primary negotiation tactic involves asking a question and letting the other person answer first.

Silence when negotiating can give you the advantage because its “deafening” weight can prompt others to speak first. For example, when the other party offers a salary figure or point of compromise, don’t answer immediately. Instead, pause and let the discomfort of silence flush out a bit more detail. Maybe they will offer more or show their own hand.

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic to communicate authority and influence. Experiment with silence during your conversations and observe the impact it can make.

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Increase Conversions with Great Closing Techniques

The most expensive deal in baseball history was finalized this February in a casino.

The Phillies pursued outfielder Bryce Harper for months, introducing him to some of Philadelphia’s finest, sweet talking him in the high-backed gold leather booths of the ARIA resort in Las Vegas, and ultimately offering him the most expensive deal in baseball history ($330 million over 13 years).

At age 26, Harper signed the longest contract in baseball history. In a casino that radiates the fragrance of mid-century Hollywood, the showmanship of the atmosphere embodied the glamour of the agreement. It was an epic conversion.

Just Sign on the Dotted Line

Sale-closing conversations can be nerve-wracking and nuanced.

No matter how impressed people seem during your presentation, there’s no telling whether they will postpone or look elsewhere. After wooing your customer, it’s time to take the plunge and ask for a commitment.

Here are a few keys to make this step easier.

Identify the Decision Maker

To close a deal, be sure you’re actually talking to the person in the driver’s seat.

In some cases, supervisors send scouts in to assess the options, but they do not have decision-making authority. In this case, be sure to customize your pitch to the decision maker or do whatever you can to arrange a meeting or phone call with this individual.

Offer a Solution

Sales can seem pushy if they center around your product or package.

When working with a prospect, do your best to provide a holistic solution that meets their business needs. If a consulting relationship would be better than a particular product, consider how you can flex options or offer a better fit.

Solutions-focused conversations include re-stating customer concerns, asking clarifying questions, overcoming stated objections, or possibly returning later with more information.

Be genuine and assure clients that you care about their business (and not just the sale).

Attach a Deadline

No decision is, in itself, a decision.

It’s human nature to shy away from commitment, and your job is to help people overcome this inertia. Offer incentives to commit: a discount, a free add-on, or a trial subscription to start.

Incentives give your prospects a reason to make the decision NOW, giving them confidence that they have the upper hand in negotiation.

Ask for Next Steps

After any customer call or completed action item, ask your prospect how they would like to proceed.

If they are uncertain, make suggestions or ask pointed, closing questions.

Here are some options to get you started:

  • Why don’t you give us a try?
  • Ready to move forward?
  • Why don’t I send over the proposal now?
  • It seems like this is a good fit for your company. What do you think?
  • If we throw in ____, will you sign the contract today?
  • If we could find a way to deal with _____, would you sign the contract by ________?
  • You’re interested in X and Y options, right? If we get started today, you’ll be up and running by ___.
  • Unless you have any other questions, I think we’re ready to move forward!
  • When should we begin your _________?
  • What are your next steps?
  • Why don’t I leave you with ____ and follow up ______?

Being a courageous, tactful closer is one of the most important techniques you can master.

Use incentives, closing questions, and solutions-based options to move your prospects to action. Superior networking tools will only strengthen your ask, so visit with us today about printed pieces that can help you seal the deal!

Four Ways to Disagree with Tact

Life is compromise.

If you want to work successfully in teams, at some point you will face conflict. In one instance, you may be the manager correcting a team member. In other cases, you may need to “lead up” by disagreeing with a superior.

Either way, successful communication includes the ability to navigate conflict while putting people before the problem.

Here are four ways to prioritize relationship while politely disagreeing.

1. Don’t Blurt

When you hear an incorrect statement, do you immediately or forcefully disagree?

How’s that working for you?

Before you speak, consider how important it is to voice your opinion. Weigh the risks of speaking out versus the risks of staying silent. If you feel compelled to share, consider when and where is best. What context would be most appropriate or what channel would provide the least threatening avenue for your listener? Discussing issues privately (face-to-face) is ideal for minimizing tension or preserving dignity.

2. Prepare Your Listener

Sometimes the best way to dissent is by prefacing your idea.

Ask permission to comment by saying something like this: “I’m not sure I share your opinion, may I make a comment?” Or, “I know the deadline is pressing, but I’m concerned about this approach. Can I run some thoughts by you?”

Giving people a chance to “opt-in” will increase their willingness to listen.

3. Keep Language Neutral

As you unwrap your idea, alleviate tension by keeping your tone steady and your language neutral.

Start by identifying a common goal and frame your opinion as one way the team can work together for a higher purpose.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, says contextualizing your statements will allow the discussion to become “more like a chess game than a boxing match.”

If you need to critique another idea, re-articulate that concept first and build comments from there. This will eliminate confusion and show a good faith effort to understand others.

When you disagree directly, make your focus the problem or flaw at hand, not the people or personalities behind them.

4. Be Humble

No one appreciates prideful people.

When you speak, do your best to be relatable and kind. Emphasize that you are sharing an opinion and leave room for dialogue. This may include phrases like, “I’m just thinking out loud here,” or “this is just my opinion, but . . .”

Polite, clarifying questions may also help. Say, “can you tell me more about ____,” or “can you define what you mean by ____, because maybe I’m defining that differently?”

Speak humbly by inviting the critique of others and by publicly respecting their opinions.

Still struggling for words? Business Management Daily offers several prompts to open the door:

  • “I see what you’re saying but…”
  • “May I make a comment?”
  • “I’m sorry but I disagree with you about this.”
  • “Tell me if I’m off-base here, but…”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”
  • “That’s a valid point, but…”
  • “I don’t think I share your opinion.”
  • “If I’m not mistaken…”

Agree to Disagree

Finally, there may be times it’s best to agree to disagree.

It’s ok to break a stalemate by acknowledging that you will never agree about an idea. By doing this you can affirm the person (or their authority) without selling out to their idea or opinion.

Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and if you’re committed a relationship, you’ll give people more grace to experiment or to grow.

3 Simple Resets to Squash Stress at Work

32-year-old Amy Alabaster had recently been named VP in her company as a successful New York sales executive.

She had friends, a wonderful marriage, and many professional accomplishments. But one day, the weight of her responsibilities came roaring in as she awoke on a bench outside a West Village restaurant.

Alabaster later learned that she had fainted on a flight of stairs and her blood pressure was so low EMTs could hardly move her. Though she considered herself happy and healthy, doctors uncovered her problem with one simple question: “Would you say that you deal with a lot of stress?” Amy said this unraveled the real issue:

“I had never been asked this question before. Like so many other companies, mine had downsized after the economic pitfalls of 2008 and I had absorbed many responsibilities after the layoffs. I thought incessantly about work. I talked about it all the time. I couldn’t turn off, ever. I checked emails and my blackberry constantly. I even dreamed about work, sometimes confusing what was real and what had manifested in my slumber. The last vacation I had taken was stressful because I was so uncomfortable with what could be happening without my oversight and control . . . My doctor said that almost every health-related issue could inevitably be drawn back to stress.”

How to Self-Regulate When Your Tank is Low

What about you?

Does your job cause low-grade stress that never quits? While many people enjoy their jobs, all of us can benefit from a daily internal inventory. When you are running on empty, medical experts offer several tips to self-regulate.

Reset Yourself Internally

Intermittently, close your eyes, lean back, and take three full, deep breaths.

When you feel stressed, force yourself to speak more slowly. This will clear your thoughts and allow you to act more reasonably in challenging situations. When you find something upsetting you, make a tangible choice to let it go. Refuse to show emotion and quickly unclench your teeth (or fists!) and move on. Effective anger management is a tried and true stress reducer!

Reset Yourself Physically

When we get busy, we forget ourselves.

Make it a priority to drink plenty of water, to move around, or to eat small snacks during the day. Take short walks outside or do a few jumping jacks or stairs. Continually adjust your posture to avoid muscle tension or a slumped emotional state. Try these exercises:

  • Shoulder Rolls. With arms hanging freely, breathe deeply and exaggerate rolling both shoulders forward then backward 10 times.
  • Chin Tucks: Place one hand on your chin and the other behind your head, gently pushing your chin toward your Adam’s apple for 10 seconds to relieve tension at the base of your skull.
  • Pectoralis Stretches: Clasp hands behind your back and lift up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold ten seconds and repeat three times. This is especially effective for those hunched over a keyboard.

Reward Yourself Regularly

Plan something enjoyable for the end of the day and build key relationships or hobbies into your routine.

Leave a few chores undone and care for yourself! This will refresh your body and sharpen your mind for creative solutions tomorrow. Alabaster says she now prioritizes eight hours of sleep each night, locks her phone in the safe during vacation, and she finds small ways to increase joy each week:

“Professional achievements still mean a lot to me. Success, however, is in the process of being re-defined. Prioritizing my well-being is the lesson I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. After all, what is success worth if we’re not fully present to enjoy it?”