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The Power of Silence: How When & Why

Silence is power.

Beloved readers, we have all been in those situations where we are faced with a decision that is often a matter of financial, social, emotional, spiritual, or psychological significance. Our success or failure often hinges on the answer to the following:

Should I open my mouth or keep it shut?

Learning to discern when it’s best to speak and when it’s best to remain silent (no matter what is being hurled your way) is an invaluable life skill that few truly master.

Highly influential powerful women have mastered this fine art. When coupled with a proper response to hostility it becomes every bit as powerful as a well-placed arrow through a chink in a coat of armor.

You may be thinking, “I see where you’re going with this. Restraint, self-control, I’ve heard that before.”

Yes and no, beloved readers.

No, because while those things are absolutely necessary to be a well-balanced lady, they are in my observations, not the sole sources of “strategic silence.” They are vital parts of the equation, but do not make up the entire formula.

(Humor me, if you would, for just a moment.)

I have found that those who cannot hold their tongue in the face of hostility, rumor, praise (yes, there are times when one should be silent while being praised), or criticism cannot do so because of a dire need to defend themselves. This has been true of me in the past, as well.

Now, perhaps you are thinking:

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t defend myself? I’m off to another blog.”

(Humor me for a moment more, please.)

When you truly love and accept yourself you won’t operate out of a knee jerk reaction to “defend yourself.”

Instead, your default feeling and prime concern will be a need to resolve any potential conflict or miscommunication first and foremost–character defense is secondary.

Why?

Truth does not need to be defended nor does good character. When you have cultivated it, it shows. You won’t operate out of insecurity (not to be confused with the healthy vulnerability born of humility).

When “standing your ground,” “keeping it real,” “not letting anyone walk all over you,” “clapping back,” etc. is your first action, you are broadcasting to the world you feel exposed and insecure. Instead of protecting yourself–

you’ve stripped yourself stark naked!

Even in the face of rumors, gossip, obscenities, out-right lies, unwarranted hostility, racial epithets, etc. utilizing silence should not be akin to walking on a bed of knives.

Why?

You are unconcerned with the thoughts of those around you.

Now, let’s take a moment here to examine the sources of this above train of thought.

The ever-popular sentiment of “I don’t give a F— about what you think of me,” is dangerous, deceptive, and self-destructive.

We should care, to some degree, about how we affect those around us and how they feel about us and what we are doing–up to a point. It’s a part of being a productive, emotional balanced person.

I’m not saying you should “just not give a F—.”

I am saying their opinion should not be your primary concern in every situation, all day, every day, before anything else. Balance is everything.

Consider this scenario:

Something goes amiss at the Big Meeting and you are thrown under the bus by a co-worker (or co-workers). You know, for a fact, once everything is sorted out, it will be clear you are not the cause of the current project’s “Epic Fail.”

In the meantime, the Director has her sights set on you, and she has decided to unload all of her thoughts (with the additional commentary of your opportunistic co-workers) upon you with full Starbucks Water-of-Life-and-soymilk-latte-caffeinated fury.

Pause, here, beloved readers.

Does it truly matter that your co-worker/boss/mother/cousin/cat’s-paternal-great-uncle-twice-removed at this particular moment–that won’t matter five years from now–is chewing you out for something that’s not your fault?

When examined in terms of your value as a human being and all the potential you have the answer is a resounding no.

Are there practical concerns like job security, reputation, etc.  to be accounted for in such a situation?

YES.

And they are far more important than “getting a word in,” or  giving “your side” of the story.

They are two separate things, truly.

There is an extremely fine line between them, but it is there.

What To Do

If your first thought, in the above scenario is to breathe deeply, keep your mouth shut, let the other continue with their tomfoolery, and actually LISTEN to them, you are a woman to be feared.

Step One: Remain silent.

If you do this with grace, elegance, and maturity you have destroyed any control they have over you and your reactions in the situation. They don’t own the situation. You don’t either, at the moment anyway, but that is neither here nor there. At this point, you have not injured your reputation.

Self-destructive, insecure behavior is an automatic FAIL in every aspect of life.

Make them go to that effort. Don’t self-destruct for them.

Step Two: LISTEN.

You need to know where the break in the truth in what they have heard/been told and the break in their logic connecting you to this fiasco. You cannot know that if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, instead of listening to what they are currently saying.

If you are more concerned with defending yourself you are going to lose this advantage.

How serious is that? It’s like dropping your gun in a gunfight–highly inadvisable.

Step Three: Be calm.

Allow a five to six second pause before speaking. This takes raw courage. A type of courage that comes with self-acceptance.

Recline in your seat. Relax your body language. Put on a pleasant (non-sarcastic) expression. Release the tension in your throat and jaw to soften your voice. Lower your tone. If you speak with your hands–keep your palms facing up.

Step Four: Rebut or Defer

Ask yourself: is now the time to rebut or should you defer it?

I type that to mean: If you have the option of getting back to someone later about an issue, it’s worth not “breaking it down” at that particular moment. It is better to take time to collect proof, evidence, references, your thoughts, or all of the above. You may need to hear the concerns presented, acknowledge that you have information to clarify the issue,and give an exact timeline of when you will provide said information if you can.

This also takes courage. You cannot be consumed what others are thinking about this tactic or what they are trying to interpret from it (this is what I meant earlier about being unconcerned about other’s opinions).

This is not always possible. However, it may be possible far more frequently than you realize. It’s worth investigating in times of PR issues/character crises/drama.

If this is not possible:

 Respond to the miscommunication only.

Why?

You don’t need to “defend” yourself. By doing one (speaking to the true issue at hand) you will inevitably do the other (character defense) without falling into the unfortunate, ugly dance of the Accuser and the Accused.

Handling Verbal Abuse

 

That typed and read, if you are being truly, verbally abused (profanity, insults, homophobia, religious persecution, racial or gender slurs) that is a separate issue to take up after the “Main Event” has been attended. Even with these, silence goes far. Even though it can be beyond difficult at such times. I know. I’ve been there.

SILENCE IS POWER.

Silence is a form of strength. It’s a type of strength that is quickly disappearing. It’s a smoldering form of influence that is impossible to ignore. The Modern Lady is a master of its strategic use.

She can eviscerate an aggressor without a hint of “snark,” anger, or sarcasm.

She quells the most belligerent of associates effortlessly with a sincere smile, visibly relaxed, and possibly amused.

(She’s a woman you don’t cross.)

TL;DR

1

Strategic Silence. Remain calm in your tone, body language, and word choice. Focus on the true issue–it’s not you. The issue may relate to or affect you, but it isn’t you. There is a fine distinction between the two. Learning to automatically find it and asses it is what separates students from masters of this high art.

2

LISTEN. You need information to respond effectively, elegantly, and productively. Will it be fun? No. Will it hurt at times? Absolutely. Is it absolutely maddening depending on who is spewing their foolishness your way? Positively.

Do it regardless.

By the way, beloved readers, as absolutely ego-shattering as it may be, the other individual might be right, even if they express the truth offensively.

3

Remain calm. Process what was said. This is not the time to plan your defense or a snarky retort no matter how well-timed; it is time to attack the discrepancy only.

4

Defer or Rebut. If you can, defer. Either way, respond to the problems you assessed by listening with a potential solution–never the verbal assault itself. They are two different things. Even when it’s your character called into question.