How many times have you asked a question – hoping to engage others – and the only response is silence?

That can be pretty unnerving, and if you’re like me, your first impulse is to keep talking, to provide more background, to fill the dreaded empty space.

What is so hard about giving time for others to think? Most of us live in a culture that values direct, to-the-point communication, and silence is interpreted as a sign that something has gone wrong. Sometimes life feels so rushed – and time is “wasted” while people think. “Get on with it, already!”

An unfortunate by-product of my need to fill the air time is that I probably miss out on people’s great ideas. Because I don’t have the patience to allow their thoughts and ideas to percolate, I miss out on their wisdom.

John Barrett uses a technique in meetings that really works. Instead of tossing out a question and inviting immediate responses, he tells people to think for a minute or two first. This allows for more than gut feelings and impulsive answers to emerge.

To get the best from any type of interaction, consciously create a space for thinking deeply. Then silence will be truly golden.

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”  George Eliot


Isn’t it time to make every conversation count? We can help.

Photo from iStockphoto.