In a world in which we are usually bombarded with distractions — smart phones, iPods, iPads, radio, TV — we rarely find ourselves with quiet time. We assume that our constant need to check our many devices shows that we are busy and important. Managing all of the noise — and talking about how we are managing all of the noise — makes us feel valued. But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to be quiet?
When we experience unexpected silence, we are often scared or confused by it. We might wonder why a room full of people suddenly becomes quiet, or why no one is filling the awkward pause in a conversation. We have an urge to fill that silence because we worry that silence is a sign of weakness.
Roberta Matuson, guest contributor to Fast Company, wrote of her experience with unexpected silence while engaging in what she calls “clamming wars” at Cape Cod. She says that every time her team snatched a clam, they were very vocal about it. The opposing team, however, was very quiet. Matuson’s team assumed the silence meant their opponents were unsuccessful, and hence they were surprised when the quiet team brought in more clams. Matuson realized the error in her judgment. The other team’s silence had meant that they were more focused:
It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you yourself are making so much noise. The other team, who participated in the clamming wars, never took their eye off the prize. Our team, on the other hand, did a happy dance in the sand every time we hit pay dirt. In retrospect, this was probably valuable time wasted.”
We often assume that making more noise is better — our voice is being heard. But the more time we waste making noise, the less time we spend actually working. We also assume that the people who talk the most and the loudest are the strongest leaders. While the loudest person is heard by everyone, her need to make noise actually shows weakness, while quietness conveys confidence:
You don’t have to prove anything anyone when you are confident. You know you do a good job and you believe that eventually others will take notice.”
Those who are working hard are out there accomplishing their tasks, not just talking about them. When they have a big idea, quiet people explore it before sharing it with everyone else. Being quiet gives them the chance to dig deeper into an idea or problem:
Quiet people tend to delve into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. Compare this to the surface people in your organization, who often move onto other matters without giving thought to the gold that may be sitting right below the surface.”
When we’re quiet, we tend to slow down and reflect. We can be more meticulous with our work. As you begin another week, consider how some quiet time might help you achieve and discover more — at work and at home. Do you spend more time complaining, panicking, or talking about a task than you do completing the task? If you find that you’re letting in too much noise, find a quiet physical or mental space. Turn off the phone, the TV, the radio, or the internet. Turn off your negative thoughts with some exercise or deep breathing. Give yourself the quiet time that you need so that you can accomplish more.
Learn more reasons why being quiet makes you more productive here. And check back in with Career Girl Network next Sunday for more productivity tips. We’ll help you regain your focus and gear up for the new week.