‘The rule of awkward silence’

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17th Jan 2024

Have many times have you answered a question or responded to a request or demand by someone instantly only to regret it later?

I used to do it most of the time, but now I have adopted a new rule to overcome that – ‘The rule of awkward Silence.’

Allow me to let you in on a little secret on how to respond to unusual requests or uncomfortable questions:

You don’t have to respond right away.

In fact, it’s better when you don’t.

Why’s that?

Because your quickest response isn’t typically your best response. It’s based on a temporary emotion that’s bound to change.

You might say yes to a request because you’re in an especially good mood, only to regret it later.

Or you might respond negatively because you’re in a bad mood–and regret that, too.

Other times, you might want to respond right away just so you don’t forget to do it later.

But, most often, your response will be better if you think it through first. Getting into the habit of not responding right away helps you do that.

Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos run two of the most valuable companies in the world. From the outside, they seem to exhibit very different personalities. But within their companies, both men are known for a fascinating practice:

They each embrace the rule of ‘Awkward Silence.’

When faced with a challenging question, instead of answering, you pause and think deeply about how you want to answer. This is no short pause; rather, it involves taking several seconds (10, 20, or longer) to think things through before responding.

We live in a world that demands instant gratification.

But there’s a major problem with all of this instantaneous communication: It doesn’t leave time to think.

Critical thinking calls for deep and careful consideration of a subject. It requires introspection and retrospection.

It involves weighing and analyzing facts, and careful reasoning.

And it results in making insightful connections. None of this is possible without time.

But when you embrace the rule of awkward silence, you steal back time.

Time that used to be wasted on nonsense answers.

Time that used to be wasted on telling another person what you think they want to hear, as opposed to what you truly believe.

Embrace the rule of awkward silence, and you will increase your confidence and self-control,

Increase the value of your comments, and

Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

When someone asks you a question that requires thought, do the following:

Pause and think deeply about their question before you respond.

Take as much time as you need.

If you’re worried about the other person’s reaction, tell them: “That’s a great question. Please give me a minute to think it through.”

Of course, you might be more uncomfortable doing this with someone in a position of power over you, like your boss or a big client and they may wonder what is taking you so long to respond, but it’s ok, that is why it is called, ‘The rule of Awkward Silence.

So, start by practicing with friends and family.

Then, gradually try it out on others, make it a habit and stay blessed forever.