The Ability to Shut Up Is a Basic Communication Skill

The best communication advice I’ve ever received is that I’m entitled only to my fair share of speaking time. If I speak with another person, I can speak only 50% of the time. If I’m in a group setting with five people, I’m entitled to only 20% of the speaking time and so on.

This has nothing to do with manners, common courtesy, or being nice to people. It’s being pragmatic. If you want to influence people, land a client, date, bed, or wed someone, or just make friends with people, simply give them their time to express themselves. Violate this rule, and you’ll risk aggravating people and losing them altogether.

You might say, “but not everybody likes to speak. What’s wrong with me filling up the empty space?” Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. If that’s the case, the best thing to do is to speak your fair share and then shut up the rest of the time, even if the other party doesn’t utter a single word.

When they said, “Speech is silver. Silence is golden,” they meant golden for you, not for the other party. Silence is beautiful, especially in the noisy world that we’re living in right now. Believe it or not, some people enjoy silence, especially in the company of their loved ones. They feel in peace. I’ve learned that from a beautiful woman. She said “people are silent in the company of people they feel comfortable with.” I still remember that evening after so many years.

Let’s say, you’re not comfortable with silence. You’re too excited about your partner. What are you going to do? The second best thing you can do is to engage them by asking them open ended questions. Questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Questions that start with “tell me, explain me, describe me”, and with question pronouns.

Advanced Communication Tip

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, here’s an advanced tip. Do this and you’ll gain the respect of your associates. If you’re engaged in a group conversation and one person doesn’t speak at all, assume the role of the leader, and engage them in the conversation by asking them a question. It can be as simple as “what do you think about this?” They will love you for doing that and you’ll gain the respect of the rest.

If you really think, you’re brilliant and the rest of the world has to listen to what you have to say, start your YouTube channel, your podcast, or your blog, and see what the world really thinks of you.

There are seven billion people on this planet. It’s up to you to show that you’re amazing. If you’re anything short of that, people will ditch you instantly, and move on to the next person to do business with, to start a relationship, and to make friends with.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.