You’ve ever been on a date and you’re just animated. You’re putting on a show. And they just sit there with that face. You know that face. The face that looks like it’s been chiseled from a block of marble. Straight stoneface. It feels like you’re a jester in the king’s court the way you’re working to impress them. But it’s a Chinese finger trap, the harder you try, the harder the game becomes.
What if I told you it’s actually more possible to impress and come across as smart by shutting the fuck up. Here’s why.
You sound smarter than you actually are
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln
One of the perks that comes with speaking less is your batting average for saying smart shit goes way higher. It’s common sense, but thinking before you talk drastically reduces the amount of bullshit that comes out of your mouth. And over time you get better at this so the quality of smart shit you’ll be saying goes up.
When you’re quiet, you can’t help but notice the subtleties. The quick eyebrow raise when you said something interesting. Or the slight shift in body language when a topic was brought up. This understanding of what gets reactions will allow you to create clever observations, make interesting connections, and create better stories. Being quiet doesn’t always mean being boring.
You’ll eventually develop a reputation for being a contributor and you won’t have to work as hard to get your voice heard. But it’s a house built on sand. As you become more credible, the foundation will solidify, but the amount of effort to bring it down drastically outweighs the effort put in to build it. So don’t slip.
Everybody walks around gassing themselves up. By doing the opposite you set yourself apart. You become a shell they can’t crack and for some people, there lies your entire appeal. I touch upon this in my Less is More. Don’t Be Ignored blog post, but the premise is by giving people less information, they have to fill in the gaps. You become a puzzle they have to figure out. Use this wisely because it’s easy to fall into the “oh he’s just a dick” category (but not caring about coming across as a dick attracts some people as well). The way to play this is to balance this out with giving compliments and asking questions.
Less is more
A member of the Cabinet congratulated [Woodrow] Wilson on introducing the vogue of short speeches and asked him about the time it took him to prepare his speeches. He said:
“It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
It’s possible to communicate a lot with just a few words. You can layer subtext upon subtext and this creates a more powerful statement.
For example, which is more powerful?
Less is more vs. When you use less words in a statement, your statements become more powerful.
Less is more right? Short phrases are easier to understand and easier to remember. This seeps into the brains of your audience and gets them to fill in the blanks.
For example, if somebody says “I’m sad,” your brain will come up several reasons for why they would say that. Did they lose their job? Did they go through a break -up? And all this will prompt you to ask “Why are you sad?”
Less is more part 2
If somebody was normally loud and boisterous, but suddenly turned quiet, you would wonder what happened. If somebody was normally quiet and reserved, but suddenly spoke out during a debate, you would listen to what they had to say because they never do that.
When you withhold the impulse to jump the gun, your thoughts are given more credibility.
You’re more empathetic
It’s easier to put yourself in the shoes of the other person when you’re not too concerned with how you’re coming off.
People feel the need to impress you
Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one it throws a piece
of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster cannot close again so that it serves the crab for
meat. Such is the fate of him who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the
mercy of the listener.
– Leonardo da Vinci
It’s a rich get richer situation. The less you talk, the less you seem impressed by everything. Because of this people up their game to gain your validation. It’s just how it works.
There’s why. Now here’s how.
The quiet and anxious are seen as weak and timid. The quiet and calm are strong and steady. If you’re naturally quiet, this is the first thing you should master because without it you’re like a college student at a high school party, always out of place.
A quick (but not easy) way to do this is to get used to cold showers. If you can be comfortable with Sub-Zero surfing down your back, you can be comfortable anywhere.
Make other people feel good without kissing ass
You have to genuinely like people to do this. People aren’t naive. They can smell a kissass like a baker bakes bread.
For this timing is everything. You have to recognize when people are putting in effort to get on your good side and then make them feel good for doing so. It could be as simple as a smile or asking them a question. See? If you didn’t genuinely like people, see how easily this would fall apart.
Master facial expressions
Facial expressions are fun. And a lot could be conveyed though something as simple as a glance. As humans, we’re predisposed towards emotions and body language is the emotional language we can all speak.
Use pointed questions
For example if my buddy says something dumb like Lebron James is the best player ever. I’ll say “ever?”
A. It shows you’re cool enough to not get into an argument over something trivial while still getting your point across
B. It allows your friend to save face because you’re not directly opposing them
Do something ballsy from time to time
You’re quiet because you want to be quiet. Not because you’re scared to speak up. So from time to time do something that takes guts. It’s the duality between the lack of words and the strength of action that helps create an interesting persona.
Never ever brag
Because you don’t care about raising your personal stock. You just do things and whether they’re awesome or not, that’s for other people to decide.
Wrapping it up
This is what’s worked for me in the past. But don’t hesitate to add your own flavor to it. From personal experience, most people aren’t interesting enough to pull off being talkative, myself included. So less is usually more. It’s like a beat. Every element should be working in conjunction with each other to create a more pleasant experience. And sometimes all you need are some pots and pans.
I’ve already said too much. You must think you know me.