Silence: Modern Day People Skills Communication Challenge? #peopleskills

Silence: Is it always golden?

As I read about the FCC’s ruling to consider allowing cell phone use during flights I was struck by the public’s outcry.  It’s all about the desire for silence.

I immediately thought about the old adage, silence is golden.  As The People Skills Coach™ I asked myself, is it always so? When do people find silence golden and when do they find it a loser?

Silence: Image is many dice.

Silence: When is it golden and when is it a loser? Image by eigirdaz via Flickr.

Very grateful for image by eigirdaz via Flickr Creative Commons License.

For many people, silence is golden when …

  • The alternative is to listen to someone yelling to be heard — like with a cell phone.  My mind wandered back to the days of librarians shushing errant visitors.   Hah! Maybe we should have a librarian on every flight to help the flight attendants keep order!   
  • There is no end point or escape from an annoying noise.  An insomniac listening to an endlessly dripping faucet will tell you the loud drip is unnerving.   During one of my grandmother’s visits, I awoke the next morning to find my tick-tock kitchen clock in the refrigerator.  I asked why it was in there and she said she couldn’t silence it any other way!
  • They want to keep cool around people who irritate and vex them. It allows them to not sweat the small stuff —  and save up the anger for more important moments.
  • They’ve had an intense day of interaction and find solace in quiet.  Arriving home to mayhem can send anyone running for solitude.
  • Fatigue has maxed out their patience and deep sleep is the only cure.  A neighbor learning to play the drums at 10pm can push these folks over the edge.
  • They are introverts. They process the world first from the inside.  External noise is about as productive and pleasant for them as sirens going off during the best part of a movie.

There are times when a majority are struck with silence as in deep tragedies or moments of reverent awe.

Yet I think of times when verbal interaction is necessary and productive — uplifting and even restorative.

Silence is not so golden when …

  • People need empathy.  When they reach out for support and receive silence, they may feel abandoned. Studies show that one of the most important factors in resilience is having caring supportive relationships.
  • When leaders directly or indirectly demand it. When team members are afraid to speak up to the leadership, the result of this silence is not golden.
  • People must interact to achieve a common goal. Can you picture a team of completely silent people?  Unless they are all telepathic, results may be delayed. 
  • When there is injustice.  Speaking out brings the collective voice of outrage to overcome bullying, prejudice, and discrimination.  The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. ~Edmund Burke.
  • In crafting a better way. Whether it’s a team working to overcome a business challenge or a country voting for positive change, silence may feed the status quo and hinder the future.
  • Relationships are brand new.  An entrepreneur goes to a business networking event to make vital connections and stands there silently for the entire time.  This silence is not golden nor productive. New relationships require initiative and communication.

So where do we find the balance between silence and verbal interaction?

  • Traditional etiquette and manners as in not speaking on a cell phone during a play or in a movie theater
  • Emotional intelligence to spot others needs and adapt to them
  • Desire to care about others not just ourselves
  • Options that allow both when possible.  AMTRAK installed quiet cars for people who want a less noisy trip.

As for the airlines, we can have our voices heard now to preserve the silence or we can remain silent now and wear noise cancelling headsets when we fly. What say you?

When do you prefer silence and when do you want interaction in your work and life?

Here’s your chance to speak up. I promise not to shush you.


From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

More People Skills Posts:
Modern Day People Skills Reminders for Social Media Greatness
People Skills: The Secret Within Every Great Communicator

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results. Kate also invites you to connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. She welcomes your interaction!

7 Responses to “Silence: Modern Day People Skills Communication Challenge? #peopleskills”

  1. Jon Mertz says:

    Great points, Kate. Having those times of silence helps us recognize the times when we need to raise our voices, too. If everything is noisy and distracted all the time, we can miss the moments when we need to reach out. Silence is golden as it increases our awareness, enhances our empathy, and provides time for reflection on how to be a better person and better leader. Thank you! Jon

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Interesting Jon. I’ve never heard anyone put it quite that way when you said … silence helps ppl to recognize when they need to raise their voices.

      I continue to read so much about the value of silence and yet I am one of those people who loves expression from others more than silence. Interesting to read your perspective!

      Many thanks,

  2. Great insights! Your post made me think about music – consider your favorite song without any silence (the pauses between the notes). What a jumbled mess! Expression isn’t just about making sounds – it’s about managing the silence as well. I’m not an especially religious person, but if think of the quote, “Be still and know that I am God”. Could it be that we find Heaven in the silence? That silence is far too rare, and an important part of effective people skills. Thanks for sharing these great ideas – let’s hope the FAA reads your post 🙂

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Chris,
      For me both silence and verbal expression are important. I love your “music” analogy for it creates a vivid picture of this idea.

      Many thanks for your input!

      Warmest wishes,

  3. Khalid says:

    I love your tick tock kitchen clock lol hilarious

    I really relate directly to your posts Kate. In fact I was in real need for silence while trying to read this post among kids noise lol

    If I may add, silence is so important when facilitating a group of people. Knowing how to control silence vs intervention is all it takes to be a professional facilitator.

    I second your opinion of not allowing phones over planes 🙂


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Khalid,
      I am rather on the fence about the phone noise on airplanes. I am still worried it will cause technical interference even though the research supposedly says otherwise.

      As for silence and verbal expressions, too much of anything is no good. Hmmm.. I think I hear my mother speaking now!

      Regards and thanks,

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