“Let the silence do the work.”
I heard this quote recently, and it’s quickly become one of my favorites. I’ve spent the past month and a half interviewing CEOs and founders of businesses for the launch of my new podcast (The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, coming soon).
Interviewing is a new skillset for me, something I’ve never really sat down and practiced before. There’s an art to it that makes it different than sales, which is why I’m so fascinated by it.
So much of interviewing is about building a connection with your guest, making them feel at home, and giving them permission to open up – all while doing it in an expedited time frame. That’s where this lesson, “let the silence do the work,” comes from. If I’m always trying to convey a point and make my voice heard it prevents the other person from sharing their thoughts.
I hang this quote above my monitor as a reminder when I’m conducting interviews to shut up and let the silence do the work. Sometimes it creates awkward dead space in the middle of an interview, but the purpose is to allow time for the guest to say everything they want. I would much rather have a couple seconds of awkward silence versus me cutting off something truly valuable to my audience.
More than interviewing
I find this quote to be more than a reminder for interviewing but a life-application as well.
Silence is becoming both a rare and more-valuable commodity.
In today’s day and age, we’re bombarded with noise on a daily basis; so it’s no surprise silence can be an uneasy experience. Our minds and bodies have gotten used to distraction. Without knowing it, many of us are addicted to it.
It feels like something’s wrong when there’s no music in the background, no news feed we’re scrolling through, or no reflective glare from a television show. Silence involves being still, without distraction — and that’s uncomfortable.
Once we’re wired for distraction, we crave it. The only way to really disengage from a mindset always seeking noise is to reorient it around creating a mindset that seeks peace and quiet. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work argues that deep (creative) work cannot happen unless we allow ourselves to be still, almost to the point of boredom. This was an excerpt from his book:
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets … it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. — Deep Work, Cal Newport
I just came back from one of my quarterly camping trips. These are solo trips without distraction. No internet or phone service, just a physical book, pen, journal, and necessary camping supplies. It’s a 24-hour trip that allows me to disconnect, be quiet, still, and listen.
I’ve done this in the past, which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, and it’s been revitalizing for me. It allows me to reconnect, without distraction, to be reminded of WHO I am and WHY I’m here.
Ironically, I was reading my journal entry from two years ago, and I had written this quote down:
In the 1980s Dan Rather interviewed Mother Teresa. The CBS anchor asked her, “When you pray, what do you say to God?” “I don’t say anything,” she replied. “I listen.” “Okay,” Rather said, taking another shot at it. “When God speaks to you, then, what does he say?” “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.” Rather didn’t know how to continue. He was baffled. “And if you don’t understand that,” Mother Teresa added, “I can’t explain it to you.”
This sums it up perfectly. Silence is an intimate thing. And most people won’t understand it because the default mode is to surround oneself with noise.
But you have to fight for silence, listen to it, and trust it will lead you somewhere. It’s in the quiet moments that new ideas emerge, clarity is found, and passion and purpose remerge as the forefront of your actions. That’s the difference between someone who’s accustomed to silence versus someone who’s caught up in the chaos.
Make time to be still and quiet. Leave town if that’s one way to do it. Cut off all distractions that prevent you from getting to that deep workspace.
If you want your work to have meaning and to create impact, start with silence. Let the silence do the work.