Be Quiet.

Many people find silence difficult: a pause of even a few seconds can feel awkward and interminable. As a result, they keep talking, to fill the void.

The immediate goal, to avoid silence, is met. But what’s the unintended consequence? The other person can have a hard time getting their voice heard. If this is an ongoing relationship, the more quiet person may never get to really express themselves, and in fact may start to rely on the talkative person to carry the conversational weight. 

If you’re managing people and it feels to like you do most of the talking in your check-ins, try this. Ask an open-ended but specific question (not “how’s it going?” but “tell me about that project you’ve been working on”), and then be quiet. Be quiet even when it gets uncomfortable. If they give you a short answer, ask another question and, you guessed it, be quiet again.

It’s going to feel strange, to you and probably to them as well. But those moments of silence can lead to a very fruitful connection. 

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