Words are powerful. So is silence.
Awhile back I wrote I wrote a blog called “3 Times to Shut Your Mouth” which was — surprise, surprise! — about the nonverbal messages you send by literally closing your mouth. And while it is useful to know when to physically keep your mouth shut (spoiler alert: MOST of the time) in order to communicate confidence and credibility, it is perhaps equally as useful to consider when to, you know, SHUT UP — as in stop talking.
Here are seven times communication and relationships will improve if you keep your mouth shut. (And remember, actually close your mouth!) Avoid words when:
You’re not saying anything.
Most people find silence uncomfortable. If that includes you, you may find yourself filling up empty spaces with unnecessary words. You lose your audience if you ramble when the listener is ready to move on. The more you talk, the less likely you’ll hold attention.
You can tell nonverbally when others have lost interest. They become fidgety, make less eye contact, and develop a neutral or blank facial expression. Especially if your audience previously showed signs of interest — a still body turned or leaning toward you, a nodding or tilted head, and eye contact — the shift in body language tells you it’s time to stop! Change the subject, give another person a chance to talk, end the interaction, or simply allow for some silence.
You’re giving unsolicited advice.
You hate it when people try to fix your problems or tell you how to live your life. And so do your friends, family, and coworkers. Do everyone a favor and refrain. It never works anyway! Most of the time people think you “just don’t get it.” And if someone thinks that’s the case, whether or not they’re right, your advice is worthless.
If you’re asked or if it’s your job to do so, definitely share your perspective and experience. Generally speaking though, don’t try to solve everyone else’s problems. Just keep your mouth shut.
People can’t hear you.
If people literally can’t hear you, it makes sense to stop talking. What’s less obvious, however, is when people are capable of hearing words but…