convey to compel 3: silence

The gold of dialogue.

The epitome of compelling communication is selling. It’s difficult to persuade someone to happily part with their hard-earned money. So why do true sales pros say that “silence is golden?”

It lets your listener digest what you’ve said.

Let’s revisit IQ again. Your IQ’s Working Memory Capacity determines how many thoughts you can hold in your mind, and for how long, to make sense of them all.

Well what do you think happens when you keep bombarding people with thought after thought after thought? You’re creating a constant stream of data for their IQ to process without giving them a break. You are exhausting, and quite possibly exceeding their Working Memory Capacity.

Give them a break.

You need to periodically give them silence so their working memory can fully process your first thoughts, before the next ones arrive.

What you DON’T want to do is send thoughts to your listener when they’re still processing your previous thoughts.

This creates two problems.

First, it prevents both your previous and new thoughts from being fully processed and thus understood.

Second, you are interrupting their thought process. They are trying to process your initial ideas, and you interrupt them by sending new ones. What happens when you interrupt someone’s thought process? You frustrate them. As you keep doing it, the frustration gradually builds, often not very noticeably at first. Have you ever spoken to someone who just kept spewing out words incessantly? Think of how you gradually grew more annoyed, until it eventually dawned on you that they needed a slap.

To let your audience truly grasp your thoughts without slapping you here are two tips.

  1. Use a brief silence (half a second to a full second) after every one to two thoughts or sentences.
  2. Use a longer silence (one to two full seconds) after a paragraph.

The cherry on top.

You can also use silence to powerfully drive home a point you feel is important. Imagine you’re talking to a prospect. You’re about to finish explaining a feature of your product that solves a specific problem they have. This is a critical point in the conversation, and a very important idea for them to internalize. It may help you secure them as your client. Here’s what you do:

First, you finish the sentence with slightly less volume than you started it with (while maintaining the exact same tone and pitch of your voice). Then once the last word is uttered, you hold silence for several seconds afterwards. Depending on what was said, you may want to stay silent until they respond. Here are the effects of what you’ve done:

  1. By keeping your tone and pitch consistent, you don’t create a discrepancy in the essence of your voice and the feelings it evokes. (The human brain likes consistency and needs it to feel trust.)
  2. By lowering the volume ever so slightly, you force them to pay more attention to the final words. This makes your words penetrate more. It’s almost as if they leave an echo in your listener’s mind.
  3. By keeping quiet for an extended period of time, you let the thought marinade in their mind.

There is no such thing as awkward silence after you’ve effectively driven a point home to your listener.  Although you may feel awkward, they do not. If the point you just made is of relevance to their interests, you can rest assured that they are oblivious to the silence because they’re thinking about what you just said.

Silence is not only essential for your audience to grasp your thoughts, it’s a powerful tool you can use to connect more deeply with them.