It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. — Maurice Switzer
Our expertise-driven culture conditions us to believe that our value lies in our expertise and in how we share it.
And our engagement and intelligence is often assessed by the nature of the questions we ask.
In every phase of my career — as an attorney, a real estate broker, a coach, in sales, marketing, journalism, and as a perpetual student — questions have been a crucial tool to unlock doors, opportunities, and answers.
I’ve also found that sometimes another tool is even more effective: silence.
Those who remain silent are often overlooked or possibly even considered ignorant, like the child at the Passover Seder who “does not know how to ask” a question.
This is a mistake that reflects the value our culture places on having and sharing our opinions.
The act of observing, listening, and absorbing often reveals information that even the most strategic question cannot uncover.
The wisest people I know are all masterful listeners. When they eventually ask questions, their questions are pointed and potent, because they’ve done the deep listening to hit on issues beneath the surface.
Silence is difficult and uncomfortable. For this reason, and because of our cultural values, we are naturally drawn to the person who asks what sound like the “smartest” questions.
But it’s foolish to think that the person not asking anything doesn’t know how to ask. It’s just as likely they are intentionally holding back so that they can take it all in first.
There is much wisdom to be found in the silence.