Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Iconic leaders like Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook exercise the rule of silence but it becomes more useful in today’s digital world of instant fulfilment. 

The post pandemic world is faster than ever, and it is largely believed that agility and speed are the two most important factors that drive business success in the “new normal”. Global adoption of digital at an unprecedented pace further accentuates the need for speed. And with people working from home, the world is remotely connected 24/7 via zoom meetings, emails, team portals and chat apps that leave no room of excuse for delays.

No doubt, in this current time of uncertainty, quick business responses are necessary, but leaders must make sure that each quick business decision is adequately thought-out, else it can backfire. So, how do you do that without losing much time? The rule of silence can definitely help. This rule is simple, every time you are asked a challenging question, you don’t answer it immediately but pause for a few seconds and think about the issue, weigh the possible implications of the response and then deliver your answer.

Apple’s Tim Cook and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, run world’s two most valuable and innovative enterprises. While their ways of working are distinctly different, both the leaders exercise the fascinating rule of silence. People on the receiving end of this communication style find it rather awkward initially, as admitted by many of the executives working with these two leaders.

Cook has used this practice for years in meetings when long and uncomfortable pauses from 5 – 30 seconds would prelude his responses. Bezos practices the rule in a more methodical way, where initial 30 minutes of his meetings are reserved for silent reading of printed memos by the whole team. The objective of this exercise is to make the whole teams deeply reflect on the memo and make a note of their ideas without any interruption.

Many renowned leaders are well known to use the rule of silence including Elon Must, Steve Jobs and most recently the Canadian President Justin Trudeau. Thinking silently for a few seconds before responding has been viewed as valuable tool of emotional intelligence, as it allows you time to balance emotion and thought, instead of reacting on a feeling.

But today, the rule of awkward silence becomes more significant because we are expected to respond instantly in virtual meetings, emails and chatrooms where very important decisions are taken. The problem with instant response is that it doesn’t give allow us time for critical thinking, which is essential for immaculate decisions.

Critical thinking involves deep reflection of a subject, analysis of facts and proper reasoning to arrive at meaningful insights and connections. The rule of silence helps you to reclaim the time necessary for arriving at your own beliefs instead of telling others what they want to hear. It allows you to:

  • Mute the outside world
  • Exercise critical thinking
  • Discover root problems effectively
  • Provide more thoughtful and deep answers
  • Give emotionally balanced answers
  • Stay in sync with your principles and values
  • Boost your confidence
  • Say what you really mean and believe

Over and above these, the rule of silence also enhances your power in the eyes of others. The awkwardness more often than not works in your favor and helps others to introspect their question and arrive at new conclusions themselves. But most importantly, the thoughtful silence establishes you as a serious leader who can be trusted to provide the perfect response every time putting others in your awe.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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