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Topics: Ethics, Leadership, Organizational Culture
Is Silence a Statement?
1) Have you ever been at the table and you choose silence instead of bringing your voice?

2) Have you ever chosen not to voice your opinion when a statement is being made?

Would you say that in some instances silence is actually an action?
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Hi Deneb,

Yes I already had choosen silence, but is a very rare in my case.

I can talk about silence in two perspectives:
1 - My own , considering my personality and in this case silence sometimes is a statement, could mean that what ever I say will not change the course of action or influence the other part or simply I have nothing positive to add and agree with the other parts, normally is not this my position.
2 - Using a cultural approach, based in my experience in meetings with Japanese workers silence only means respect by the top hierarchy, and they only speak when directly asked.

So silent is definitely an action, the meaning of this silence could vary according the culture and in the end with the personality of each person.

Alexandre
...
1 reply by Deneb Milano
Feb 29, 2020 11:19 AM
Deneb Milano
...
Thank you Alexandre for sharing your opinion. For sure Culture is a big factor on how silence can be interpreted.

Agree with you that bring your voice is more important.
Hi Deneb,

Silence can be seen as an action when its use was in an environment where a voice was expected. However, such “actions” carry risk to your stature as motives are likely to be ascribed to you that do not match your intention.

A project professional without a voice is a project professional in disguise. Once we press the mute button, we have given up our primary tool to manage/lead, and if we are not managing/leading, then, what are we doing?

I agree there are times when silence is appropriate, but it is rarely an explicit statement. In our business, a project professional NOT being explicit, is normally a project professional not doing their job.

So, in my opinion, if you need to give [A] Consent / Acceptance / Agreement, then be explicit. If you need to [B] Protest or give Dissent, then be explicit as well.
...
2 replies by Deneb Milano and Eduard Hernandez
Feb 29, 2020 8:58 AM
Eduard Hernandez
...
"The famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln provides a good approach:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

But if one remains ALWAYS silent... that doesn't give an image of being in control.

Finding the sweet spot between talking and listening, this is the key. When I talk, I repeat things already known to me. When I listen, I have a chance to learn something new.
Feb 29, 2020 11:21 AM
Deneb Milano
...
Agree with both of you. I think is very important to being able to read the environment but also have the courage to speak and do your job.
Feb 29, 2020 7:40 AM
Replying to George Freeman
...
Hi Deneb,

Silence can be seen as an action when its use was in an environment where a voice was expected. However, such “actions” carry risk to your stature as motives are likely to be ascribed to you that do not match your intention.

A project professional without a voice is a project professional in disguise. Once we press the mute button, we have given up our primary tool to manage/lead, and if we are not managing/leading, then, what are we doing?

I agree there are times when silence is appropriate, but it is rarely an explicit statement. In our business, a project professional NOT being explicit, is normally a project professional not doing their job.

So, in my opinion, if you need to give [A] Consent / Acceptance / Agreement, then be explicit. If you need to [B] Protest or give Dissent, then be explicit as well.
"The famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln provides a good approach:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

But if one remains ALWAYS silent... that doesn't give an image of being in control.

Finding the sweet spot between talking and listening, this is the key. When I talk, I repeat things already known to me. When I listen, I have a chance to learn something new.
...
1 reply by George Freeman
Feb 29, 2020 10:31 AM
George Freeman
...
If the fear of being “wrong” is muting voices, then the opportunities for success will find silence as well.

Yes, when you speak, you say things already known to yourself, but that’s not the reason you are exercising your voice. You are giving your voice (i.e., knowledge) to a collaborative effort, one that is purposed to find “resolve” to a question of concern. Your participation in this endeavor is bi-directional, that is, you send knowledge, and you receive knowledge, all in the same conversation (it’s not all or nothing).

So, I agree that there is a sweet spot, but one should not error on the side of silence as a “project professional,” as it promotes ambiguity. And ambiguity on projects finds only one thing – failure.
In addition to the diverse points already made above, each of which has value, I would add that I sometimes delay voicing my view to encourage full team engagement. Some team members tend to be talkers while others hold back... so while I usually come to voice... I consciously delay it until others speak first; sometimes even prompting team members to speak if they don't volunteer.

Of course if I sense something is going off the rails and "needs managing" then I speak up forcefully.

But certainly silence is a tool in the kit.
...
2 replies by Deneb Milano and Tim Podesta
Feb 29, 2020 11:22 AM
Deneb Milano
...
Thank you Scott for your insight. I like the statement where is a tool in your kit.
Mar 01, 2020 10:24 AM
Tim Podesta
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I would say silence is a choice - either to save a response to another time having listened and reflected or to let the moment pass. Speaking up is a choice as well for the opposite reasons.
Deneb -

Staying silent when speaking up is needed is an example of Kim Scott's "Ruinous Empathy". Unfortunately, this is one of the ways in which a toxic culture can persist.

However, under the right circumstances, staying silent can speak volumes. For example, if someone has made a suggestion and a key stakeholder who is known to be vocal chooses to remain silent it could be a sign that they are not supportive.

Kiron
...
1 reply by Deneb Milano
Feb 29, 2020 11:23 AM
Deneb Milano
...
It can be pervasive or empowering.......so true
It is a matter of strategy. Each time you will sit to a table in some work life situation you have to have a strategy about the matter that will be the reason of the meeting.
Hi Deneb

communication can be modeled to be an interaction between a sender and a receiver, includes verbal and non-verbal modes, and can be explicit or by omission (which needs a common understanding of the context - you cannot notice that there is something missing when you do not know what should be there).

Yes - silence can be meant as a statement of the sender. The question is if the receiver understands that statement. It depends e.g. on the receiver's level of empathy and listening skills, understanding / agreeing on the context or just if it is easy to neglect a statement. Which are dependent on culture and personal capabilities of the receiver.

If - as a sender - you want to make sure that your statement is understood, you should convey that message explicitly and not by omission. A leader should make sure that their message is understood.

Being silent can have unintended consequences, for example in a relationship both sides think they have a common context and understanding and can try to express strong wishes by silence. If that is not understood, I have seen big troubles coming up.
...
1 reply by Deneb Milano
Feb 29, 2020 11:25 AM
Deneb Milano
...
You are so right on how the receiving end of the message could have a very different interpretation of silence, if they even notice. Good reminder that communication is two ways.
Feb 29, 2020 8:58 AM
Replying to Eduard Hernandez
...
"The famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln provides a good approach:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

But if one remains ALWAYS silent... that doesn't give an image of being in control.

Finding the sweet spot between talking and listening, this is the key. When I talk, I repeat things already known to me. When I listen, I have a chance to learn something new.
If the fear of being “wrong” is muting voices, then the opportunities for success will find silence as well.

Yes, when you speak, you say things already known to yourself, but that’s not the reason you are exercising your voice. You are giving your voice (i.e., knowledge) to a collaborative effort, one that is purposed to find “resolve” to a question of concern. Your participation in this endeavor is bi-directional, that is, you send knowledge, and you receive knowledge, all in the same conversation (it’s not all or nothing).

So, I agree that there is a sweet spot, but one should not error on the side of silence as a “project professional,” as it promotes ambiguity. And ambiguity on projects finds only one thing – failure.
Feb 29, 2020 6:58 AM
Replying to Alexandre Costa
...
Hi Deneb,

Yes I already had choosen silence, but is a very rare in my case.

I can talk about silence in two perspectives:
1 - My own , considering my personality and in this case silence sometimes is a statement, could mean that what ever I say will not change the course of action or influence the other part or simply I have nothing positive to add and agree with the other parts, normally is not this my position.
2 - Using a cultural approach, based in my experience in meetings with Japanese workers silence only means respect by the top hierarchy, and they only speak when directly asked.

So silent is definitely an action, the meaning of this silence could vary according the culture and in the end with the personality of each person.

Alexandre
Thank you Alexandre for sharing your opinion. For sure Culture is a big factor on how silence can be interpreted.

Agree with you that bring your voice is more important.
Feb 29, 2020 7:40 AM
Replying to George Freeman
...
Hi Deneb,

Silence can be seen as an action when its use was in an environment where a voice was expected. However, such “actions” carry risk to your stature as motives are likely to be ascribed to you that do not match your intention.

A project professional without a voice is a project professional in disguise. Once we press the mute button, we have given up our primary tool to manage/lead, and if we are not managing/leading, then, what are we doing?

I agree there are times when silence is appropriate, but it is rarely an explicit statement. In our business, a project professional NOT being explicit, is normally a project professional not doing their job.

So, in my opinion, if you need to give [A] Consent / Acceptance / Agreement, then be explicit. If you need to [B] Protest or give Dissent, then be explicit as well.
Agree with both of you. I think is very important to being able to read the environment but also have the courage to speak and do your job.
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