What to Say When There’s Nothing to Say

No video today.

I didn’t have anything in mind this morning and just as I was typing the title for today’s post it came to me:  we need to understand when to shut up.

I can speak very well on this topic because (as the saying goes): “Those who can’t do, teach” and I have never fully learned how to shut up when I should. Consequently, the problems I have had that are associated with not knowing when to shut up have at times been quite serious.

What do we say when someone has lost a loved one?  I have found the best thing, more often than not is to just say how sorry I am for their loss and maybe hold their hand or put my hand on their shoulder. I don’t impose myself on them with hugging or anything more than a simple touch.

When people are angry or arguing over something and you sense you have reached an impasse, then just shut up. Let them have the last word, not with a snide “Whatever!” or anything similar; just nod your head and say, “Well, I guess we’ll have to disagree.” and then shut up.

Often times the most powerful thing one can say is nothing at all.

When I was in sales I learned that the worst thing I could do was to talk after I asked a question. “Never talk after the close!” is a foundational tenet of proper sales technique. Let the other person sweat it out waiting for you to say something and more often than not they will speak and tell you what they wouldn’t have revealed if you had continued to talk.

Your silence also can be a way of allowing someone else to put their thoughts together. I have always been fast on the draw, so to speak, and I am sure that my quick responses have caused others to simply not comment, which is a sin on my part. And when they reply, listen to what they say. How often do you find yourself just waiting for them to stop talking so you can say what you want to say?

When we are concentrating on listening for when they take a breath we never really hear what they are saying.

People today are way too sensitive to any little statement or joke, and they all cry about the other person not talking to them compassionately. But who is trying to listen compassionately?  If someone says something to me that is nasty or snide, and I really don’t think I deserved it, instead of complaining I should ask them quietly and humbly, “Why are you being so mean to me? If I did or said something that really upset you I am sorry; please forgive me.”  Then just shut up and give them time to gather their thoughts.

I am very cynical and distrusting of humans, but still and all I will bet that if I did something like this then I would receive an apology, the tension would be lifted and we could begin to communicate again.

One last thing: when in doubt about what to say, less is more. When someone is in pain, silence can be one of the most powerful and compassionate things you can offer, along with a gentle touch of the hand and an open ear.

True humility, maturity and compassion is not shown in what we say as much as it is in what we don’t say.


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