Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
A good many leaders have trouble being quiet. Angry leaders find it nearly impossible. Some leaders think aloud. Angry leaders don’t think, but they do it loudly. Most leaders would rather talk than listen. Angry leaders believe they should talk and everyone else should listen. Given the way things work in most organizations, it is not surprising that only a few leaders regularly leverage the power of silence. Angry leaders almost never do.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Silence is calming. Silence demonstrates self-mastery. In the context of arousal, it sends a strong message about what matters and who is really in control. If you can remain silent while everyone else is vomiting bile, you will become the person in charge. Eventually, everyone will realize they have surrendered their minds to fervor and turn to you for guidance. When others allow anger to rule them, rule them with silence.
How can you do it?
- Recognize emotional arousal. You may see it in others first or you may be the first to become aroused. If you don’t see it coming, you can’t manage it.
- Stop talking. For most angry leaders, this is easier said than done. But it can be done. Give it a try. You will be amazed at the power of silence.
- Breathe. Start taking long slow breaths. This will slow your heart rate, calm you and provide a pleasant distraction.
How have you leveraged the power of silence in emotionally charged situations?