By Ashley Cole, Training Coordinator
Knowing how to utilize moments of silence to your advantage is a skill. Unfortunately it does not always come naturally. Individuals can often be afraid of silence in the classroom, in a meeting, and even in life. That fearfulness can manifest itself in many different ways but is often verbalized with words such as “um” “right” “okay” and “you know” or questions like “does that make sense?” People may not even notice that these words are bubbling up. I have even witnessed entire groups of people distracted by the pure volume of these filler words. Not only can this undermine the message, but can undermine the credibility of the speaker.
We all have idiosyncrasies; they are a part of our nature and a part of what makes each of us a unique human being. While some are charming, others can be downright detrimental, and unless someone brings the latter to your attention they can have debilitating effects in both your personal and professional life. But accepting your shortcomings is often a direct challenge to your ego. In order to overcome such limitations, one must have the courage to live up to that challenge.
So, here is your test. The next time you give a presentation of facilitate a meeting; record yourself. Viewing this record can be a real dress down, which is precisely why it can be such a powerful tool. You may discover that you wring your hands, that you fidget, grimace or make vocalizations that you had never noticed before. This type of undeniable empirical evidence can help lead you to a breakthrough.
Remember: Discovering what your natural tendencies are is the first step in changing your behavior.
If you want to take it even further, seek out coaching opportunities. Find an ally in the room or in your organization. Ask for honest feedback. Listen to that feedback without judgment. Take it to heart.
You can use all of this knowledge the next time you step into the classroom or facilitate a meeting. Take a moment to notice your behavior as you speak. Maybe that you were about to say “um.” Take a moment to notice. Let that moment pass. Move on. You have just found your silence, and there is a chance that the entire room is hanging on your next words.
In the end, only you have the power to change your behavior. Find your silence and discover your voice.