5 Times When Silence is Golden in the Workplace

One of the more important strategies of business communication is the finely honed sense of when not to talk. Especially as a executive, I can tell you (humbly, even) that the greatest business lessons I’ve learned have occurred during the times that my own mouth was shut.

Here are 5 Times When Silence is Golden:

  1. A comment about another person’s flaws. A good reputations can be tarnished when it’s just too tempting to blare your negative opinions of another person’s flaws. If you think good news travels fast, just see what this inopportune tactic will do. Worse for the speaker, it will create this certainty in the mind of anyone listening: it’s only a matter of time till you’ll be talking about their flaws too.
  2. A question or comment unrelated to the agenda. I’ve watched aspiring leaders lob questions or comments in a meeting that have nothing to do with the agenda. It’s a sure way to show lack to tact and an inability to focus. A rousing discussion may ensure, but afterwards, attendees will remember the speaker’s lack of focus. They’ll also mark you as someone who has no respect for an agenda nor the meeting organizer.
  3. The clever parting remark. Learn to resist the clever (or off color) parting remark. Lack of sensitivity to others will dog your career. While no one may say anything - those who overhear such things learn over time to avoid direct interaction with such a person. You might get the last word, but not the last memory.
  4. Simply sharing an opinion with no data. Unless specifically asked for an opinion - remember they have limited value in important business decisions. Do your homework. Know the industry. Know the facts. It’s better to remain silent than open your mouth and confirm you’re not prepared for the discussion. Anytime someone begins a statement with “I think…” remind yourself it’s simply an opinion - with likely no real facts to back up the claim. 
  5. When emotionally charged. If you do not have enough self-disciple to have full command of your emotions, resist the urge to speak out until you have cooled off and gained some level of self-control. Lasting harm can be done when you speak in such instances. You may be forgiven for the event, but no one will forget.