we last talked about, when working in collaborative environments and managing people, those times when you need to speak up. this second part is to help show when you should bite your tongue and be quiet — which could be hard for many people!

knowing when not to talk is as important as knowing when to talk. but don’t get the wrong idea; silence isn’t just a passive way of communicating. your use of silence can actually be quite active. you’ll find yourself wanting to keep hush:

  • when you disagree with someone (i’ll explain)
  • when someone is trying to teach you something
  • when you’re trying to teach something to someone
  • when people are telling a story

when you disagree with someone, state your case — or they may state theirs in contrary to yours — and then shut up. listen to what that person has to say in response, and rather than defend your position alone, differ to people who you know agree with you. understand what the opposition’s viewpoint is, and make intelligent decisions based off of that conversation. sometimes the best choice may be to agree to disagree.

when someone is trying to teach you something, if you already know it — or think you know it — don’t interrupt. someone is using their time to teach you something because they see something in you. for some reason, maybe unknown to you, they find it important to impart some knowledge on you. so give them the respect of your attention, and don’t try blowing them off — no matter how respectfully. the next time they think about giving you help, they may think twice about how they’re spending their time.

one of the most overlooked times to keep your silence is when you’re teaching someone. chances are they’re going to stumble through things. let them stumble. and if you see them moving in the right direction, don’t push. when you let people discover things on their own, they not only understand what they learned better but they feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

when people are telling a story, don’t interrupt. even if you’re asking for clarification, just shut up. you can ask for clarification later, but your interjection could cause them to lose sight of the purpose of their story, or lead the conversation onto a tangent never to return to it’s primary cause. a story that may have once had a purpose may turn into an empty passing of time.

so when you’re working in a collaborative environment, or if you’re a manager in charge of making important decisions, the greatest skill that you could acquire is understanding when to talk, and when to let your silence speak for you.