When silence is golden — and when it’s not

Workplace Communication CSC Blogs

Communication in the workplace can be complicated.

What to say, what not to say, how to say it with dignity, respect and without expressing the wrong intent — it’s a hard balance that can take years to perfect. And what’s challenging in a face-to-face world becomes even more complicated in a digital one. When communication turns into keystrokes, we may find ourselves “saying” things we would not say — or at least not in the same way — to someone’s face.

Our key values and respect for each other can often be lost and forgotten behind the safety of our screens. Which has me thinking, how much sharing is too much sharing and how much voice is too much voice in online conversations?

Surely the answer depends on the topic being discussed, how passionately you feel about it and how much you want to change or transform the conversation around it. A good approach, I think, is to sift through the data available, understand different voices and viewpoints and come up with a rational opinion you can support with the facts.

Over the years, I have learnt hard lessons by speaking too much at the wrong time. At other times, I’ve had wonderful experiences come from speaking up. Balance is required, and the will to listen to that awesome emotionally intelligent voice in your head telling you to stop, to count or to slow down. Learning from those around you, especially those who show patience in chaotic situations, can help, as can having someone listen to you and offer feedback when you feel especially passionate about a topic.

A wise person once told me that sometimes “silence is golden” and “haters will be haters.” As I get older, I find that silence is certainly golden and can do wonders for the soul. With a little bit of patience and time it can also do good for the heart. And I’ve also come to accept that haters lack the mind, heart and soul to voice their views in a positive way.

There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to expressing thoughts and opinions in the workplace and beyond. As leaders in our industry, we need to take that risk and share our points of view to help guide clients in the right direction. We have to accept that new ideas, especially transformative ones that lead to big changes, might be met by silence or, even worse, by haters. But if we have the right data to support our views, they’re worth expressing — and sometimes passionately.

I think part of my interest in making my voice heard stems from living in Perth, Australia, one of the most remote places on earth. A recent article about my Land Down Under named Australia as the next Silicon Valley, but my city wasn’t even mentioned. (Did they just forgot to put it in? I chose to stay silent on this occasion.)

One of the benefits of living here is that it makes me think differently about the boundaries of what can and should be done. It emphasizes the need to reach out and make connections with others in the world, and makes me want to share my views and opinions so they know more about us. It also helps me to accept that people have different perspectives, and we can discuss those openly and without malice.

Living here and working in this industry with a global company and global clients, I’ve learned how to do my research and make a case for my viewpoints, face-to-face and in the digital world.

And I try to never forget the power of silence, too.


Sarah James was ANZ lead for Authentic Leadership in DXC and an advocate for DXC’s Women in Leadership and STEM. Prior to leaving DXC in September 2017, Sarah founded the Empowering Future Leaders blog and was its primary author. With over 15 years of experience in the world of IT, Sarah’s specialty is spatial information and includes integration on projects as diverse as mapping volcanoes in Hawaii to delivering high-tech police vehicles.

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Comments

  1. Ken Gottry says:

    Good points, Sarah, to which I will add a feedback comment I receive early on in my career … Ken often continues to talk long after communications have ceased … wise words I *try* to recall each time I prepare to open my mouth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ian Sharpe says:

    Excellent post Sarah and have shared via LinkedIn to my network. Keep speaking up – it’s enriching and valued!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Silence is a great tool, and one that sometimes gets ‘misheard’! It allows for listening. Another great article that resonates as a fellow Perthian adoptee😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • geosupergirl says:

      Thank you Ro, yes ‘silence’ gets misheard all the time. I thought none of my friends via facebook read my blog as no comments, then a friend told me how much she loves reading them, it inspires her, she develops our next generation of children. She also gave me great feedback that she reads between my IT jargon. *note to self!!!!

      Like

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