Silence is golden – a lesson still needed

A song by The Four Seasons and covered by The Tremeloes in the 1960s had a wonderful chorus echo and title “Silence is golden.” There are broader lessons beyond the words written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. Here are the words from one of the stanzas:

“A talkin’ is cheap, people follow like sheep
Even though there is nowhere to go
How could she tell he deceived her so well
Pity she’ll be the last one to know”

Words can make people do things they may not want to do if they knew the truth. Also, a person can be his or her own worst enemy if they he or she keeps talking. There are lessons in being strategically silent, which can benefit everyone.

There are many examples that come to mind. Here are a few to ponder on:

-Once the sale has been made or the recommendation accepted, don’t revisit the issue. In consulting, if the client’s CEO shuts his presentation book and agrees with the recommendation, do not reopen the book. I have seen decisions unwound or sales lost as a result.

-When dealing with a bureaucrat in a customer service role, do not offer information outside of their purview or superfluous to the mission at hand. Once you get a customer service person outside of his or her white lines, you will need to come back with more information.

-When someone is lying or does not know the subject matter, the person risks discovery when he or she keeps talking. A certain former president is very bad at this. Mark Twain said it is better to let people think you are a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

-As a manager it is better to give employees enough input to do a job and then let them do it. My quotable old boss used to say, “our business is easy; hire good people and have them go see our clients.”

-Just because you think it does not mean you should say it. The best come backs to some personal arguments may be better left unsaid as they may be too hurtful or a bridge too far.

-Sometimes it is better to not to shout out the answer to a quiz show question as others like a chance to say the answer.

-Finally, as a parent, asking questions and then being quiet as your kids answer will both endear you and garner their thoughts. Plus, if you want them to hear you better, lower your voice not the opposite.

Let me know your reactions to this and please offer any other suggestions.

18 thoughts on “Silence is golden – a lesson still needed

  1. Note to Readers: An important lesson for all of us is do not underestimate the quiet person. The quiet person listens and observes, so they understand more of what is going on. My grandfather was like that. He did not say much, but you should listen when he did.

    • VJ, true. Sometimes biting your tongue today, will get you heard tomorrow. I just witnessed this again today on an email exchange. I chose not to counter argue a retort I did not agree with yesterday, which allowed me to circle back when he presented a future opportunity. Hopefully, the second comment I made was heeded. Keith

  2. I love these lessons, Keith. My husband’s uncle was one of those silent, strong, kind, intelligent gentlemen. He passed away several years ago. My husband has a similar personality. I sometimes feel discouraged, that people like this aren’t lifted up in our society as they should be.

    • Rose, I agree. Back before 1950, introversion was thought to be a character flaw to train someone out of. Now, more CEOs are introverted than ever before because of the complexity of running multiple businesses. Keith

  3. All good advice. I would only add not rising to the bait of those whose only goal is to wind you up. I have a few readers/commenters like that and it took me a while, but I finally learned to simply ignore them rather than attempt discourse or debate.

  4. Note to Readers: I have said this countless times, but our old CEO used to say “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.” I have written about Daryl Davis, an African-American man who has talked over two hundred KKK members to cede their robes and quit. He said he does so by listening to them. Only then, will they hear him.

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