I came across this meme the other day that said, “Don’t mistake my silence for weakness.” This statement really resonated with me. I’ve definitely been in my fair share of situations where I’ve had people make the unfortunate mistake of doing this to me.
Now, depending on where we meet, I completely understand why you may feel that way. Regardless of whether I’m in a social or work related setting, I like to kick back and assess the situation before I start talking. I prefer to sit back and relax while I learn more about the people involved. Then if I feel comfortable with the folks I’m around, I’ll join in the conversation. If I feel like we’re not going to have a ton in common, I minimize my comments in order to keep the peace.
Guess what? I’m not shy. Now those of you who know me, you’re probably laughing and immediately thinking absolutely not, but others may be thinking, “Hmm, you could have fooled me?!”
It never ceases to amaze me how many people automatically associate silence with being shy or even worse…weakness.
The sad thing is that this couldn’t be furthest from the truth. As with everything in life, you have to have a balance, but in many situations, silence, especially on the job, is a strength.
Have you ever been in a meeting at work with someone who wouldn’t shut up? I’m not talking about the folks who have a legitimate question. I’m talking about the people who love hearing the sound of their own voice. They make comments to demonstrate how “smart” they are, ask questions that either don’t pertain to the topic at hand, or could easily be answered if they just took that extra second to think instead of asking that dumb question. Many people truly believe this is the only way to get noticed or receive some unofficial praise from their boss.
However, what our talkative colleagues don’t seem to realize is that they are having the exact opposite effect. People will start to ignore you. If you’re constantly talking that means you’re not listening. You’re too busy focusing on what your next profound comment will be so you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to truly listen and immerse yourself into the topic that is being discussed. Which means that you’re more than likely going to miss out on some valuable information that is being shared with your team.
It’s been my experience that folks who tend to be quiet people have a higher level of demonstrating discernment. They know how to pick and choose their battles. Their goal is to add value not noise. They don’t have anything to prove. When they ask a question or make a comment, it really is because they are truly seeking to understand that person or that topic. They know that listening is active, not passive. Every fiber in your body is going to want to divert your attention to thinking about the point and/or concept that you want to convey, but this is the wrong way to have a conversation. In order to have a truly powerful conversation you need to listen to what the other person has to say and then respond. It takes time and energy to be an engaged listener, but it’s well worth the endeavor.
The amount of information you pick up when you’re focused on listening to truly understand instead of just appearing to be listening is gold. So much can be learned from not only what that person is saying but also through non verbal cues like their body language and facial expressions. I don’t have a poker face. So my face will immediately let you know whether we are aligned on whatever the topic of conversation is, but again, these are things that you will miss if you’re too busy talking.
Unfortunately, one of the many consequences of talking too much is that it reduces the time you have left for you to put your words into action. When you’re working you really don’t have a lot of time for idle conversation. You are well aware that actions speak louder than words. Quiet people tend to be more focused on working towards their goals and not talking about them. When I’m at work, I work. I work to live not live to work. My job funds my life but it is NOT my life. I don’t mind engaging in conversation, but you’re not going to find me chit chatting at the watercooler, trying to fit in to cliques, or sucking up to managers so I can climb the corporate ladder. Why? Doing those things will derail your self-esteem and take precious time away from me getting my work done. My goal is to make sure I perform well on the job so I can have money to create content and participate in hobbies or passion projects.
I limit my time on social media, listening to the news, and immediately remove toxic people from my life. All of those things I just named are nothing but noise that left unchecked can really derail you from discovering and developing the talents and gifts God gave you so you could live an extraordinary life. How you live your life may be the only Bible others around you ever read, so why not write chapters that inspire others to do the same?
Now, I realize that life is not full of roses. There isn’t a person on this earth that has not been in a situation where they were treated unfairly. I’m actually going through this right now with my dream condo on the lakefront. You can learn more about that in a prior episode called, “ Are you causing good trouble?” I want nothing more than to tell these people off in-person, but doing so would cause more harm than good.
I’ve expressed myself in writing rather than engage in verbal confrontations. By the way, I’m not one of those people that goes back and forth. I pray about the matter, say what I have to say and then leave it alone.
I’m saving my time and energy to search for alternative ways to gain the peace and justice I seek. Arguing with fools that are a couple fries short of a Happy Meal accomplishes nothing.
The Bible says in Prov 23: 9 Do not speak to a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words. I know arguing with these people is an utter waste of time. In my case, it would be incredibly naive to mistake my silence as giving up or as weakness. It’s quite the opposite. Silence in this instance is actually demonstrating strength. It’s much easier to be a hot head and lose your temper than it is to remove yourself from the situation until you have your temper under control.
In Ecc 3:7 God already told us that there’s a time to keep silence and a time to speak. The struggle of knowing when to keep silent is real. If you’re able to have a peace that surpasses all understanding then take comfort in the fact that you’re on the right track (Phil 4:7).
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