3 Secrets of Silence – Shhh Don’t Tell

Do you know the ways silence can be used successfully?

Maybe you’ve  used silence and it’s bitten you in the butt? Someone says something critical and you don’t speak up. Later they refer to how you agreed with them on their comment? Ever happened to you? That’s when others assume your silence means you agree with them.

You  know silence does not equal agreement, right?

Maybe you’ve been in the company of someone who just can’t stop talking!

I swear they speak because they love the sound of their own voice.

Recently I was at a dinner and in a more reflective mood as my father-in-law had just passed away. Two people at the dinner were more acquaintances then friends. One of them absolutely loves to talk . . . nonstop. You know where this is going, right? I had zero tolerance for nonsence talk (as I call it) that evening. A couple of times the group had a good laugh but each time this one individual would respond with some silly story (that wasn’t even relevant to what we were talking about) and bring the focus back to her. In one instance, she said,  “Well today I received an email . . .” and went on to talk about a ridiculous story related to a funeral. The laughter stopped and the room went quiet. I said “Maybe you should consider the source of your emails before you share them. There is no way that story is true.” Was I too harsh? You decide.

So how do you use silence to your benefit, as a leader?

For many leaders, silence makes them feel uncomfortable. They rush to fill the gap to ease their own anxiety. That’s not leadership. It’s just ‘stomping on silence’ – anyone can do that.

Here are 3 leadership secrets to using silence:

 1. When An Employee (or Colleague) Is Distressed

  • When someone is distressed and telling you about it, you may have the strong desire to ‘fix’ their situation. The problem is, most people don’t want to be fixed, they simply want someone to listen. By using head nods and nonverbal movements, to indicate you are listening (in other words, being silent), they will feel much better then if you give them a solution (unless of course they have specifically asked you to fix the problem). They will also trust you more and see you as a valuable leader. All that by keeping quiet!

2. To Emphasize An Important Point

  • Whether you are speaking to two people or a group of twenty, when you say something that is really important, pause (and remain silent) after the statement. The pause says to people “That’s important!”

3. When You Are Negotiating

  • When you are negotiating for time off, money, a specific role or project, once you have placed your offer . . . STOP talking. It may be difficult but as the Golden Rules says: “He (or She) who speaks first, loses.” Most people will say what they want and then keep on talking. As you keep talking your value diminishes. When you offer and then stop talking, the pressure is on the other person to respond. You hold the leverage.

Silence is a powerful leadership tool when you know how to use it. Use it to your advantage and notice the difference you can make. In the words of Leroy Brownlow:

“There are times when silence has the loudest voice.”

If creating (and sustaining) a respectful workplace is something you would like to create, then simply send me an email, and we’ll have a FREE 20-30 minute phone call. Click here and in the subject line, write FREE Call.

To Your Silence



Sign Up for FREE Valuable Communication Insights That Produce Results.


  • Our workshop participants found Barb’s approach to teaching at the Centre for Professional Development to be dynamic and engaging.  Barb not only taught effective communication and presentation skills, but also role modelled techniques throughout the day. Participants were excited to be able to apply learning’s directly into their day to day roles

    Leasa Knechtel

    Associate Director at the Centre for Professional Development, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

  • Your plenary session was a real asset and a great contribution to the success of our National IPAC Conference. From beginning to end participants were energized and actively engaged.


    Gwyneth Meyers BSc, MSc, PhD

    Scientific Committee Chair

  • “The workshop was wonderful!! Barb walked the talk by continuously demonstrating the tips and skills she was teaching! It was amazing to see it all come together. I would recommend the workshop to anyone who has to present.”

    Bev Waite, Education Lead-Nursing,

    Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

  • I told one of the nurse educators that it was the best 3 hours I have spent in a training session as the content was clear, relevant, exactly enough to be able to incorporate into presentations, and you demonstrated each point which was great. It was watching an expert at work.

    Aideen Carroll, Advanced Practice Nurse Educator

    Toronto General Hospital

  • Your workshop was also a big hit. It was interesting to hear people talk about it as not good, but great.

    Debbie Ross

    CMP Manager of Governance and Events CNA

  • After working with Barb, our team returned to work energized, enthused and inspired to utilize tools that increase our communication, clarity and relationship with not only each other, but also with the residents and families that we serve. I would highly recommend Barb if you want to bring out the best in your team.

    Dale Clements, Administrator

    Columbus Residence

  • Barb Langlois led a wonderful one day workshop for 45 Clinical Nurse Educators in Saskatoon Health Region. She worked with us in advance to really understand our learning needs, Six months later, I see CNEs using Barb’s techniques to engage learners and I use them myself in my own presentations. I strongly recommend Barb – she is a very skilled facilitator who connects with learners in a very meaningful and effective way.

    Margot Hawke RN, BSN, MCEd, Nursing Professional Practice Lead

    Saskatoon Health Region


Seriously? Me, too! covers 10 Power Strategies that seriously work. It takes everyday situations that you can relate to, sprinkles in a bit of humour (you can’t be serious all the time) and demonstrates how you can achieve personal success — one simple step at a time. Learn More »


Simplify Your Smarts

What’s the point of being smart if nobody understands what you have to say? Have you interacted with someone who is really smart but w