What Your Silence Tells Others

Some leaders are outspoken while others prefer to be low key. In a recent NBC interview with Brian Williams, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed a leaning towards introversion and silence. When asked what it was like shifting from a senior executive position to that of CEO, he said, "I'm a very private person, I like my being anonymous." (for the full transcript, click here)

For extroverts, finding silence during a week is very important even though silence is not their natural leaning. For introverts, finding silence is easy since they prefer less stimulation on any given day.

For both groups, silence speaks volumes. It tells others any number of things about them and how they approach work. It also is subjectively interpreted by those around the leader.

As an example, I like to spend the first 90 minutes of my day without meetings. I prepare my day, meet with my assistant and crank out the tasks that absolutely must get done that day. When I do this, the rest of the day goes better. I'm more focused and can give myself to those around me. When I don't do this, I'm distracted and experience guilt.

I realize that not everyone has a job with full control over each hour of the day. It's also true that some jobs are urgency driven. An ER nurse's job is to respond to anyone who comes through the door. Can you imagine it any other way? Still, when you choose to practice silence during the day, you tell others something about you.

The mom who tells her kids that she needs a 15 minute break so that she can have a devotional prayer time says something profound. She's telling her kids that the home is about noise AND quiet. She's telling her kids that faith needs listening and listening only happens when we are quiet.

The CEO who starts his day by getting quiet and closing his door for 30 minutes tells those around him that he's there for them AND can only be fully engaged if he begins his day with quietude. He's actually deepening his leadership platform by showing those in the organization that he is available most of the time but not all of the time.

The couple that takes a long drive in the country and doesn't feel the need to talk is practicing silence. Their silence says that they've run out of things to say AND that love is totally ok with that. Sometimes love is just being in the presence of the one you love.

What is your silence telling others?


*Photo Courtesy of FDT