Silence is the most powerful tool I’ve discovered.
It can help you escape kamikaze people heading straight for you. The power of silence is not often taught. Social media teaches us to react to every little thing. To give a like or a comment on social media appeals to your dopamine-driven brain, according to research.
What if you could simply avoid problems through the tool of silence? The tweet, which is the headline of this story, points to the answer.
The ego tempts you to break silence
The key is realizing that the ego is not you. It’s something that the mind has constructed, starting in childhood, to help defend ourselves from the big bad world. — David Gerken, Mindfulness teacher
The ego tells us to react. Something has entered our human radar and we feel compelled to respond. Why? It feels good to defend yourself or break the silence. Plus you can get a lot of attention when you do — and we all love attention, don’t we?
Ryan Holiday taught me that the ego is the enemy with his famous book. Because I’ve labeled my ego as an enemy, when it tries to strike, I swiftly respond with silence.
The way to break the temptation of your ego is to delay the reaction. Tell yourself “it’s okay to react, just do it later.” The gap of time punctuated by silence allows you to gain perspective. With perspective, you realize silence is a better strategy to avoid trouble.
Silence before answering questions
When I worked in corporate there’d often be times where I’d get hauled into a meeting and ambushed with questions from corporate hostage negotiator types. For many years I fell into their trap.
They’d ask a hard question and I’d simply answer without thinking. Then I learned a new technique. After they’d ask a daring question I’d simply sit in silence and think about my answer. It broke their pattern. Then after enough silence had passed, often, I’d say “that’s a great question, you know, I need time to give you an appropriate answer.”
The power-hungry types in suits would then try again to get me to answer their leading question. I’d then give them a similar answer. They eventually figured out they couldn’t ambush me with questions that might get people fired, anymore.
Don’t feel like you have to answer questions. If you intend to answer a question then leave plenty of silence. Your first thought is often your worst thought. And your worst though can get you in a lot of trouble.
Quit in silence
I recently quit my job a few months ago. Everybody told me to go out with a bang. I decided not to. There was no advantage to do the wrong thing by people who did the wrong thing by me. It solves nothing — except it gives the ego a nice gift.
So, I quit in silence. I sent a quiet email to my boss and my boss’s boss. I thanked them for having me. I told them my plan to work on my own thing. I had coffee with them before I finished up. Nowhere did I tell them how they should run their business, or who they should promote or demote.
The same goes for fellow writer Zat Rana. He has quit writing on Substack. He didn’t make a huge fuss about it. Zat just drifted into the background to be alone with his philosophical thoughts in silence. There could be a Return of the Jedi type return to writing or there could be indefinite silence. Nobody knows … I like that.
Next time you quit something, do it in silence, without all the handshakes and cries for attention. If you do return to what you quit one day, people will quietly say to others “oh, I’m so glad they’re back, I’ve missed them.”
Silent content creation
If you are a content creator, like I am, there are plenty of temptations to get stuck in the noise. Writers like Zulie Rane, Amardeep, and Michael Thompson often publish without getting lost in the comments section. It’s not that they don’t care about the reader. It’s that they want to create in silence sometimes.
I feel like that too. A nasty comment can easily trigger you on a bad day. There’s no approval button required to comment on Twitter as an example. Sometimes there are simply lots of bored people in these apps, who like leaving terrible comments to see if you’ll get sucked into their tornado and go to war with them over an opinion.
What keeps me sane is this: forget about being right or wrong. Make people think deeply. That’s how you avoid a lot of trouble on social media.
Have a warm shower in silence
I’ve recently discovered I have tinnitus. It causes a high-pitched ringing in my ears. So I am robbed of silence for the rest of my life.
But not all hope is lost. A warm shower blocks the noise and gives me silence. The sound and feeling of water hitting your body is a meditative state. It brings about some of the best thinking.
Take your most troublesome problems to a warm shower and think about them in silence. You’ll find that solutions enter your mind without a lot of effort. Why? Because you’re relaxed, according to a recent study. Silence and relaxation help enable your brain to be free and tap into your creativity. Creativity prevents a lot of trouble.
Live a quiet, non-status life
When I quit my old job, I told no one. When I started making money, I told no one. When I started hitting the gym, I told no one. I tell no one anything. Outside opinions will throw off your energy. — Aaron Will
This quote from Aaron demonstrates the trouble with opinions. Opinions alter your trajectory in life and can make you go against your plan. This happens because we often talk way too much about our achievements or our status in life. What if you made good money and lived as if you’re broke? Aaron suggests this: “Have more than you show and speak less than you know.”
Trouble can find you when you brag too much. People love to tear down anyone who has been successful because it helps distract them from their own shortcomings and gives them a form of permission to be mediocre.
Talk less about your results so you can reinvest the time into progress.
It boils down to this
Silence is the solution to many problems. When you talk less, you think more. Once you’ve thought about what you’re going to do, you’ll be less triggered by the ego’s desire to react instantly. The first reaction to trouble is the worst reaction. Use silence to interrupt the pattern.
This article was originally published on Medium.