June 24, 2017

The Art of Silence and a Look to Go With It

The Art of Silence and a Look to Go With It

Today I am going to share two tips with you that I have used many, many times. I have used them to stop arguments, to win arguments, to stop pushy sales people, to shut down “alpha male” loudmouths, to frustrate frustrating people, to stop myself from saying things I would regret and to keep from embarrassing myself. The list of ways that silence and “the look” have worked goes on and on.

I don’t say a word.

This sounds much easier than it really is. A good salesperson knows that after they make their pitch and ask you to buy, to shut their mouths. Often times, the first person to speak loses. Here is a tip on dealing with salespeople; if you’re not interested, don’t give any reasons or excuses, just say “no”. If you don’t shut them down with a “no”, you’ve given them more time to try and convince you.

This isn’t just true in sales; I have won arguments with people in different areas of my life by saying my piece and shutting my mouth. My goal here is to give my perception and not enter into the “tit-for-tat” type of argument that often occurs.

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” ~ Proverbs 29:11

I try to live by this verse. I don’t always succeed, but thank God for His grace. Here is my theory on arguing; if your stance is correct and your argument is logical, make your point and be quiet. If two people are in an argument, odds are that emotions are heightened. You will, most often, not sway someone in an emotionally irritated state by a logical argument, even if it is the correct and right stance. Continuing to argue often leads to even higher emotional volatility, which can lead one to sin against the person they’re arguing with.

Trudee and I are blessed with having fewer heated arguments than I can count on one hand in the almost ten years we’ve been married. When one has happened, I say my piece and try to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes that has led to each of us feeling like we got to say what we felt needed to be said. Sometimes it has led to me vacating the same space so I can keep my mouth shut.

“It is better to be thought a fool, then to open ones mouth and remove all doubt.”

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. For those of you who don’t know, Asperger’s is a high functioning form of Autism. My social skills are pretty good for someone with Asperger’s, but I learned early in life that I don’t know how to respond in many social situations. If I don’t know how to respond and do anyway, many times it comes out awkward and forced. If I keep my yap shut, I might come off as quiet, stand-offish, or in some cases rude. I’ll take any of those instead of looking and feeling like a fool.

Where not saying a word works extremely well is with pushy people who aren’t taking “no” for an answer. Don’t keep saying “no”. Just say it and then stare at them in the manner I’ll describe below.

Women, please learn this! If you have a man who is making you uncomfortable, you do not need to explain yourself or worry about hurting his feelings or his opinion of you! He might call you the big bad “B” word! So what!? Your safety, self-respect and general well-being are far more important than him expressing his opinion of you!
The Look of Looks

Part of my Asperger’s Syndrome is a difficulty picking up on social queues; especially matching facial expressions with emotions. Because of this, I have spent hundreds of hours throughout my life studying and analyzing facial expressions. There is one look I have seen that is particularly effective that I have used countless times to great effect.

This expression is really a total lack of any expression. Your face is totally void of any emotion. Relax all of the muscles in your face; no clenched jaw, no grimace, no flared nostrils; just nothing.

To me, this expression conveys a sense of meaning business. I have seen it used by women to shut down pushy men, parents to stop a nagging child, men use it instead of posturing to let another man know they’ll not be taking any more crap and it’s time for them to back down.

I have actually used it in all of those situations (except I shut down a pushy woman) very effectively. Probably the funniest use of it was recently; I have an account rep at work who thinks his problems are the most important thing going on. He is a “hoverer” on top of it. He frequently shows up at people’s cubes and expects them to stop what they are working on to address his issue. I let him know I didn’t have time at that moment but would be able to help him in 30 minutes and then gave him the look. He didn’t know what to do! He just walked away! He hasn’t been back to my cube since.

To use silence and this look effectively, you have to be comfortable with the awkward silence that will follow. If you smile when you’re nervous, if you clench your jaw when angered, if you feel the need to power up to intimidate, or countless other things, you’ll need to train it out of you!
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  1. Jim Moore says:

    Great info Brother! All good things to keep in mind.
    I try to review my Active Listening skills from time to time. Slience and a neutralized look can go a long way in really communicating with folks.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Thanks Jim

    • Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

      I remember taking Active Listening with several of my employers. However, I work from home and often do not even talk to my clients for three or four weeks, and I do not visit them more than six or eight times a year. I have forgotten all about active listening.

      Thank you for mentioning it, as I will try to become more active in my listening.

    • Catherine says:

      It works on unruly teenagers too!

  2. Very good advice. I learned two things as a corrections counselor. When an individual raises their voice don’t react by raising yours. Instead speak softly and maintain an neutral facial expression.
    The second trick was to ask a totally frivolous non related question that would cause them to think of an answer.
    If neither of those worked then I would end my part of the discussion. If they calmed the situation down then I would discuss the cause of their anger.
    Meeting rising anger with your own only ratchets up the anger and yelling.

  3. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    I had a problem related to 2 Corinthians 6:14 (New International Version)
    Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

    My ex-wife demonstrated Christian behavior before we married, but her psychopathologies started to emerge. She always wanted to argue and would now use any logic. Even having a simple conversation with her became difficult, as she was always right. I have not had that much practice being silent, but I think I need to try.

  4. In a social situation I observe demeanor, trying to pick out the attitudes, or “know it alls”. I will definitely try this. Thanks.
    I really appreciate the site, and all the work you put into it, especially including God in it.

  5. “Here is my theory on arguing; if your stance is correct and your argument is logical, make your point and be quiet.”

    I couldn’t agree more, very good point. This is especially true as we enter the age of digital communication vs spoken communication. Most times, when debating a topic fools will type pure nonsense with the intent to frustrate or infuriate. Sticking to the subject at hand will hasten their departure.

    Good topic.

  6. I’ve used these 2 methods too & found them to be effective in various situations. Seems like the “Shh” silent one is easier for introverts; extroverts have to be more disciplined to practice this. I sometimes use the silence method w/ a couple of extroverted, opinionated people at work.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I’m sure it does come easier, as introverts are more comfortable with silence. But it still takes control not to lash out at times. stupid fallen world…

  7. Snake Plisken says:

    Chris, we must be cut from the same cloth. I use the very same techniques in my personal life and business.

    Funny story: I had been dealing with a particularly arrogant engineer on a project for General Motors. He called me one day and began screaming at myself and degrading my firm’s people. I told him in a calm voice that he needed to calm down so we could discuss his issue rationally. He kept on hollerin’ so I told him to call me back when he was in control of himself and I hung up. He called back again. Same situation. He called back a third time and I again was polite and hung up on him. My office mate was aghast that anyone would go against the powers that be at GM and that we would most likely lose the account.

    The following morning the GM butthead called and was as nice as pie. Turns out that he had the wrong supplier. Point is: you never know what the other person is experiencing at that particular moment and it’s often best to listen but not be intimidated. Silence after all, is golden.

    Silence is also intimidating. In this day and age of instant communications most Americans just have to fill in the empty spaces with nonsensical chatter and fluff. I reckon some of that superficial regurgitation of speech is nervousness and anxiety. Most people are intimidated by a person who thinks before speaking.

    One of my very good friends is a huge man. Very tall and muscular and doesn’t talk much. He scares the bejeezus out of my other friends because he’s very quiet. I really enjoy watching my chatterbox friends squirm when he’s around. His silence isn’t hostile, it’s just who he is. He’s a mystery and an enigma to the chattering class.

    OTOH, silence in a relationship can and does show comfort. My grandparents raised me and I can remember there were times where they didn’t say a word to each other for hours on end because they didn’t need to: they understood each other completely and were very content with each other.

    Silence is a great tool. I utilize a quiet and calm demeanor at all times. It is the great equalizer. By being silent the person who is trying to scam or distract you gets very frustrated and as their level of frustration grows they show their agenda.

    Snake Plisken

  8. Snake Plisken says:

    FTA: the look. As you said Chris the look is important as well. I find that in a face to face conversation looking that person in the eye and holding that contact while being silent is a huge plus. Specifically when you have a bemused smile on your face. I call this the ” Dad ” look. Even at 52 years of age my Dad will give me the look which says ” that was the dumbest thing I’ve heard”. :)

    Best of all though is not to give anything away with your facial expressions.

    Snake Plisken

    • Chris Ray says:

      ” that was the dumbest thing I’ve heard” I have one of those that I give in a joking manner, it usually cracks the person receiving it up.

  9. Chris Ray says:

    I am happily married.

    Obviously there are many approaches, to arguments, conversations and so on.

    I have Asperger Syndrome, which gives me a white and black, rigid way of thinking. But If I look back over my life the only time I said something I regretted was when I acted in emotion and let me tongue get the best of me.

    there are various shades of gray, but that doesn’t make them right. sometimes the best approach is to be rigid and unmovable.

  10. Hey sometimes we men have to learn to say we are sorry and we better have the right reason and know how to grovel to preserve the peace. If accepted it by our spouse it only delays the matter. It will come up again 10 years later at 2 in the morning when we are sound asleep.

    • Snake Plisken says:

      Bozinga!!!! You have have hit the proverbial nail on the head Dan! Now I have clean my monitor because i laughed so hard at your post. :)

  11. Excellent! I worked in sales, and being quiet and simply listening is the best trait a salesman can have. If your salesman won’t shut their trap, chances are they are trying to sell you something you don’t want.

  12. This is awesome, and I think mastering this might go a long way in dealing with a “jezebel”. Jezebels are “always” right, assume you will bow to them and their way of doing things, and just might manipulate your downfall if you don’t. It takes a LOT of confidence and bravery – and usually requires a united effort among a group – to stand up to one. Thanks for this great communicating tool, Chris! And btw, Mr PJ..logic happens to be my forte’. ;-}

  13. Hi Dan!
    I really enjoyed reading this!
    Recently, I somehow realized that in many situations it´s really much better just to shut up and stay silent. This proverb: “It is better to be thought a fool, then to open ones mouth and remove all doubt.” is so true! :) So thank you for another reason to learn how not to speak too much (which really is my problem I think).

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