September 29, 2016

Silence Can Be Golden and Good for Small Business

I heard a recent development in small business. Or rather, it was something I didn’t hear. It was Nothing. I was talking with a small business owner today and he was confident and, well, quiet. I’ve made a number of large purchases over the past few weeks and I’ve noticed that the owners and (even!) the sales guys were down-right subdued. And they let Me do all the talking — which is all I care about anyway. This is new.

And a contrast to the traditional fast-talking tycoon or used car sales rep.

Your Business Blogger once sat near Alan Greenspan with Andrea Mitchell in the President’s Box in the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He didn’t say three words all evening.

Simply silence; not a quite a snub. And I know snubs. No, this was Alpha Male silence.

Some called Greenspan circumspect. All I heard was silence.

George Will reported on his marriage proposal to Andrea. She said that Greenspan had to repeat his marriage proposal three times before she understood what he was getting at.

Subtlety. Silence. That sells.

I was once coached by a headhunter. To keep my mouth shut. To use silence. The recruiter instructed me to use silence as a tool.


[1,001; 1,002; 1,003; 1,004]

…commands attention.

A confident quiet, ….of four seconds…


Deveil wears PradaEconomy of words. Economy of movement. The subtle seen in the movie The Devil Wears Prada by Miranda Priestly. Meryl Streep was acting out Anne Wintour the former editrix of Vogue Magazine.

Charmaine and I previewed the movie for our three girls. Meryl/Anne was perfect.
Commanding leadership that was understated. And sociopathic.

Meryl Streep expressing disapproval would (barely) move her lips. An eyebrow raised a millimeter or so.

There seems to be an inverse ratio: Small movements/Big command.

So. If you want to command and communicate and persuade. Be quiet. Be still.

Nuance and Silence can Sell for your small business.


PS I didn’t get the job, although it was not the headhunter’s fault. Your Business Blogger is such a slow learner…

Full Disclosure: Charmaine once made the pages of Vogue. Described Fully Dressed.

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Jack Yoest

Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

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26 Reactions

  1. Silence, especially during an interview, can be scary. However, as we know, silence can be golden. Well placed pauses and moments of reflection in silence can show the power of comfort in an unfamiliar setting. This is invaluable because employers want to see someone who is adaptable in any situation, because the workplace can incite unpredictable twists and turns. I once had a boss who would ask me how I was doing with my work and sit there in silence. My initial reaction was to talk until I was done and then continue to talk to fill the void. But, I learned quickly that he wanted a report of how I was doing and then for me to match his silence. This showed him that I was comfortable with the silence and comfortable and confident in the work that I was doing. Silence is golden because it allows a mutual respect and consideration for the people you are with. Don’t be like intern David who babbles until he is stopped- be confident in your statement and your work… own the silence.

  2. I enjoyed reading this short, yet concise article on the importance of silence and confidence. Professor Yoest uses silence in class to grab attention. Silence in business is underrated, yet powerful. In the situations mentioned in this article, I believe the businessmen used silence to capture confidence and character. I agree that the silent technique are useful, but I think one must be mindful when to use it to prove effective. For instance, if a salesperson at a new retail store were completely silent, allowing the brand and storefront to speak for itself, I would not feel comfortable shopping. Thus, it’s important to tailor this technique to one’s purpose and audience.

  3. Like being taught in class, silence is what gets attention. For example, imagine you are about to present information and your audience is not giving you the attention. If you remain silent and patient for a few seconds, you will naturally attract the audience’s attention. No one in the business world wants to talk to a yappy sales rep that speaks your ear off about a particular product. Let the customer be in control. However, if you are too silent that can turn a customer off. Therefore, you must learn how to sell a customer with the amount of silence you display.

  4. Silence can definitely be a good thing in small businesses. However, this is not a common trend among business people because one can often find him or herself in a situation in which the other is extremely talkative. The reason why silence can be a positive trait to have is that it commands attention. Since it is typically normal for people to talk a lot, a person can immediately distinguish someone who is particularly silent or quiet. When such is the case, it is somewhat natural to pay close attention to that person. In situations where a person is trying to get the attention of others, people often find that it is easiest to do so by being still and silent.

  5. This article shows the evolution of the attitudes of small businesses. In the past, sales men and bosses were known to be fast talking and upfront. However, this article explains how small business owners today are of few words; they are subtle and silent, which sells. The article compares this attitude to Meryl Streep in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, who would express disapproval from barely moving her lips. The hint would be noted and change was immediate. Nowadays, silence sells and persuades.

  6. I really resonated and appreciated this article, as I have a new found interest in the industry of sales recently. It is important for the salesperson to control a conversation between he or she and the buyer, in order for the salesperson to attain all the relevant information necessary in making a sale. Regardless of what the purchase is, it is typical of a buyer to research any product before they make the investment. Because of the accessibility of information that is available today, however, I feel that buyers can become overwhelmed by the overload of info. In order for a salesperson to give their customer exactly what they want, they need to be able to identify what that is. Sales is about making a pitch and selling your product, and I believe that can be done in only so many words, and your experiences correlate with those understandings. Especially in regard to a small business, they are intimate and in order for them to succeed they need to have a loyal clientele network that is built on a foundation of trust. That relationship is only possible if a small business owner takes the time to get to know his or her customers, which can only be done by listening to them.

  7. I found this article to be very beneficial and interesting. I never truly understood the importance of a few seconds of silence. It allows you to think, the person you are interviewing for to think, and it displays confidence on your part to your potential employer. I liked how you used the example of Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wares Prada, ironically I just watched this movie this past weekend. When you mentioned the disapproving look, with the slight rise of the eyebrow or the ever so slight movement of the lips, I know exactly what you are talking about. Miranda Priestly’s silence asserted her authority, and people knew that her silence either meant something was good or it was bad. Having that type of affect on people can be very beneficial for the work place. Silence shows confidence, if it is used correctly, and it allows you and the interviewer to gather your thoughts and reflect on what was just said.

  8. We live in a world where we are constantly told bigger and bolder is better. However, I agree that silence can be the key to success. During any speech a long pause captures your audience’s attention. Especially if the content isn’t too exciting to your audience. A long pause will draw them in. It shows your comfort level in knowing your content. Most presenters speak quickly in order to finish their presentations. However, when you take your time and leave subtle pauses you are showing your audience how much you truly care about the topic. It also gives you time to take in your audience’s reaction to your presentation, regain your train of thought, and properly explain your topic of interest. Who knew all this world needed was a little bit of silence in order to gain success?

  9. This article showed me a completely new way of doing business, but i do think it makes a good point. I have seen someone ramble on(including myself) during a sales pitch or a presentation. While in hind sight it would have been much better to take a couple seconds, gather your thoughts and efficiently get your point across. The other point that you made about silence being something that commands attention. I agree with that because I think that when you ramble on and fumble over your words you will lose interest from the customer or whoever it may be that you are presenting to. While instead taking a few seconds every minute or so it will keep peoples interest and will make it much easier on you. I think that commanding attention is something important for small businesses because sometimes you let your business itself do the talking.

  10. I agree that silence is a great asset to have when it comes to sales. Excessive talking may have been the best strategy in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but not in the 21st century. I feel more inclined not to make a purchase if the sales person talks too much. If your product is truly great you should not have to talk a potential customer’s head off in order to persuade them. Plus, silence is simply cool. People are intrigued by people that have that ‘alpha male silence.’ James Bond and Bruce Wayne never say anything superfluous and they mean what they say, which makes them so cool and intriguing.

  11. I like the fact that this article points out that silence can be used as a powerful tool within business. Whether you are making negotiations or selling a product, you want to cut out useless information. You do not need meaningless words to fill the air of an awkward silence. All it does is show that you are nervous with a pause in a conversation. A silent response from a listener does not necessarily mean that they are not paying attention to what you are saying. The person is most likely processing and thinking about what you have just said. Effective listening allows deals to take place and work environments to move smoothly.

  12. I agree with this article in that silence can be a very powerful thing, but I definitely think it depends on the persons who are involved in the conversation and whether there is background knowledge on the character of each person. For example, if during the beginning of the interview the person getting interviewed is initially quiet, it can be understandable that they are nervous or they are not a huge talker. It would not be weird if this quiet person continued throughout the whole interview as a veery reserved person. However, if a candidate in an interview begins off the interview by saying a lot then all the sudden switches and become mute, the candidate becomes very suspicious. I am not saying there is obviously something they are keeping a secret, there is just more the person doing the interview should look into about this candidate.

  13. In my experience, the little amount that I have, I have noticed that business is a lot of chatter. At one of my internships the weekly meetings seemed to be a competition of who could speak louder than the other person speaking. It was a mess and nothing got done. Everyone in the room was a young got getter who recently graduated from a M.S.M.B.A. program, they all genuinely believed that everyone needed to hear what they were saying. This article points out the major flaw in these meetings, not a single person saw silence as a powerful tool. I recognized this when my supervisor would come to the meetings, he had been with the company the longest, worked the hardest, listened well, and spoke only when silence did not work. Silence is definitely powerful in business.

  14. “Be quiet. Be still.” Not only will this grab the attention of your audience, but it will also allow you to learn so much by just listening. Yes it is important to get your point across and make your motives known in business, but it can just be as effective to be subdued. I think that a lot of people look at silence as a weakness and do not see the huge effect it can have on others. Silence as a matter of fact can make just as much noise and actually be more effective in a business, then being loud.

  15. This was very enjoyable and interesting article. Silence is key in a lot of situations but it can also be detrimental to someone. Silence is sometimes what catches peoples attention. When someone can speak in such a concise way with fewer words I think that it shows more knowledge of a topic. Silence works to small business owners today because less is sometimes better. If you’re trying to sell a product initially, say the the right words to get that potential client in your office and for a second meeting. You don’t want to sell someone on everything you have initially because it gives them no reason to come back for a follow up meeting, and then already the seller has lost a potential client.

  16. I think that this article explains the importance of silence in todays business world. In todays society everything is fast tracked and getting straight to the point is something of great importance. If the salesperson is just rambling on about the product most of the time it ends up being repetitive and in my opinion loses the consumer in the process of trying to sell the product. Also, if the salesperson ends up rambling on about the product or service that they are pitching the consumer can end up being overwhelmed and end up confused and not end up buying the service. Like the article says “silence can sell for your small business”, letting the consumer control the sale and just staying silent can help the seller listen to the consumer and better assist them in their search for the product or service they need.

  17. After have just completed a sales class last semester I can truly related to a lot of this. In that class I learned that sales has a lot to do with your personality. Silence can be a key technique in sales because it shows that you are not trying to be pushy. There is nothing worse then working with a pushy salesmen. On the other hand, you have to be smart about it. It could hurt you if you do not stay in touch with your customer. Checking in on them will help them show you are still interested in making the sale.

  18. In the business world this is a very important phenomenon. During an interview you do not want to say something that is not worth saying during an awkward silence. As a person, I am a big fan of getting to the point and I hate when people say things just to say things. Get to the point and don’t beat around the bush. Silence makes all of this a lot easier. To be good in business you should always know when to talk and know when not to talk. Silence can sometimes be bad, but overall I think that silence is much more good than bad. Silence is very powerful in interviews and in business overall. I think it is important to say something when something may hurt the company, but know when the right time to talk is and when you should really just not say anything at all.

  19. Mary Margaret Sheridan

    I think there is a lot of truth to this. People get so used to the sound of others’ voices that it can be easy to tune out. Silence makes people listen. The absence of noise can be unnerving for some people. If someone can become comfortable with using that silence, they can command the room. When a businessman is actively “selling” and talking quickly to get his points across, he can seem insincere. When someone doesn’t feel the need to fill gaps with meaningless words and chooses their words wisely, it feels more genuine. Silence is a tool that can be used to command attention and respect.

  20. As we learn in class, silence is a powerful tool to use to grasp the attention of your audience, it can be a tool to assert dominance, and it can be a great tool for listening and learning. Regardless, silence can be golden and good for small business. Especially in Marketing, you want to “do less” because sometimes less is more. While I was studying abroad in Spain, in my marketing class we learned about nueromarketing and we found that consumers respond more to advertisements and commercials that used no words than those that did. This is why the brand of Coca-Cola is so globally known and successful. People buy more Coca-Cola not necessarily because of its taste, but because of their experience with the Coke brand. There is something very relatable to silence that everyone can respect and I think it should definitely be used more often.

  21. This article was interesting, silence can be a technique that grabs attention. A moment of silence can also mean that the person is thinking of a way to explain or thinking of the better solution to represent. It is a useful tool, it can also show confidence when someone is silent. However, one must know when to be silent and when not to. Because not in all case silence work in a positive way. Their are situations silence can work negatively. For instant, a salesman must be talkative to sale the product to the customer.

  22. This article was interesting, silence can be a technique that grabs attention. A moment of silence can also mean that the person is thinking of a way to explain or thinking of the best solution to represent. It is a useful tool, it can also show confidence when someone is silent. However, one must know when to be silent and when not to. Because not in all case silence work in a positive way. Their are situations silence can work negatively. For instant, a salesman must be talkative to sale the product to the customer.

  23. I totally agree that silence can be a very good thing for a small businesses, even for a presentation, interviews and business meetings as well. By holding a pause of silence it shows your audience confidence, and also grabs their attention. Having a brief movement of silence is always better than having someone ramble on about something, because rambling on looses the audience interest. Keeping the audience informed and interested in what you have to say is key. I think our business professor does a great job of being silent sometimes when he wants us to answer a question or to pay more attention. Being silent can be a key factor in the business world, as long as you know when to use it.

  24. Just as our business professor tells us in class, silence is a beneficial tactic of getting peoples attention. Instead of trying to overtalk your students or co-workers, instead you give them silence and you will get their attention. Its a classic way of getting your audience to remember you. It gives you a level of confidence other people do not have.

  25. As being a student in the Catholic school’s system for every year of schooling I have received, silence has always been stressed whenever the teacher got so mad to the point where she refused to yell. As a kid I was always confused by this because during lunch time the moms, who so nicely volunteered to watch us, always used silence to get our attention and calm us down. So as a teacher would holler and all of the sudden be quiet would always confuse us. Although I was never taught how golden silence can be in order to be the demanding force in the room, I have now learned, via my business professor, how important silence can be when addressing a group. Silence can make your mark and demonstrate the power and respect you’ll receive in the room with just that simple four second pause.

  26. Silence can be used more than you’d think. First is to receive someone’s attention. Just when you thought you yelled as loud as you could to get someone’s attention and begin to give up is exactly when you catch someone’s attention. They wonder why did the yelling just suddenly stop and why things became abnormally quiet. Silence is also used in conversation. The more silent the person is the more information he/she retains. Rather than talking someone’s ear off and probably not sure of half the things you just said. Lastly, I feel as if silence is most important when you are trying to convey a message to someone. It’s a simple as not saying a word, but maybe giving a certain gesture. The person you are giving the gesture to receives your message in a more serious manner then actually trying to explain what you mean with words.

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