“When a pro interviewer feels a subject is holding something back on a particular topic, they’ll often use the power of silence at the end of the answer to draw out more information. Here’s how journalist Jim Lehrer describes it: ‘If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction.’ Try counting to three–or five if you can stand it–after your subject answers a tough or thoughtful question. This method can seem agonizing at first, but–used with empathy–it works wonders to develop a deeper rapport between two people. Since our natural tendency is to fill in a silence, the pause can also work as a power play in a tougher scenario–say, a salary negotiation. Dick Cavett explains how he employs it tough-love style with interview guests: ‘You can hold someone with silence and make them go on. You tend to feel you need to fill all dead air. There are times when if you just say no more than ‘uh-huh,’ and pause, they’ll add something out of a kind of desperation that turns out to be pretty good. Let them sweat a little and then they’ll come up with something that they were perhaps not going to say.’ …Of course we’d all like to think of ourselves as attentive, curious students of the world, but one little thing gets in the way: our own egos. It’s not our fault–we’re hardwired that way. After all, talking about ourselves feels as good to our brains as money or sex. That’s why ego suspension is so essential to cultivating the kind of curiosity that lets you connect with others. Robin Dreeke …explains: ‘Most times, when two individuals engage in a conversation, each patiently waits for the other person to be done with whatever story he or she is telling. Then, the other person tells his or her own story, usually on a related topic and often times in an attempt to have a better and more interesting story. Individuals practicing good ego suspension would continue to encourage the other individual to talk about his or her story, neglecting their own need to share what they think is a great story.’” Courtney Siete
Moving From Head to Heart
- Are you just waiting for the other person to finish?
- How often are you turning the conversation to you (your adventures, your opinions)?
- Do you know how to use silence “with empathy” to draw someone out? …to “develop rapport?”
- Are you aware of the danger of you “filling the silence” when you should be still?
Abba, make me wise about silence.
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill