Our commentary comes from New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons, whose new book, “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Closed in an Endlessly Noisy World” (Henry Holt), is a call to talk less and listen more…
Sooner or later, every person who talks too much talks their way into trouble. You might offend someone or hurt their feelings. You can lose your job or destroy your relationship.
I know, because I’m an inveterate negotiator. I also know how hard it is to break a habit.
That’s partly because the tendency to negotiate is hardwired into your brain, and you can’t change it. But also, we live in a world that practically forces you talk too much.
Social media is designed to allow you to post, share, like and comment. And somehow we’ve come to believe that success is measured by your ability to attract attention. The founder of a tech company once told me that he measured people’s worth by the number of followers they had on Twitter.
That was funny. Look at Steve Jobs. He wasn’t on Twitter at all. He had zero followers. What was its value? Zero?
In fact, most powerful and successful people talk less than other people, and they listen more. They speak with intent. And they understand the power of silence.
Barack Obama is one of the best speakers of all time, but he is an even better listener. Richard Branson is a billionaire entrepreneur and a big braggart in public, but he mostly takes notes in meetings. Anna Wintour is one of the most powerful people in media and fashion, but she is also famously quiet. No one ever knows what’s going on behind those sunglasses.
I have found that in almost every aspect of life, talking less gives an advantage. You might get a promotion or negotiate a better salary. You will almost certainly be a better parent and partner.
The best thing is that you will not only improve your life; you will improve the lives of the people around you.
There are thousands of books and classes that teach you how to be a better speaker. What we really need to learn is how to be silent.
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Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: Chad Cardin.