I apologize for the long absence! I’ve been focused on my new job as a Corporate Trainer, using a different side of my flair for communication. I thought a post about the use of silence in communication would be an appropriate break from my long silence.
Silence is a valuable asset in just about any kind of communication. That may seem counterintuitive, but without some degree of silence your message can become too cluttered for your reader, viewer or listener to easily comprehend.
Whether you are carrying on a one-on-one conversation or public speaking, silence is a powerful tool. A moment of silence after making a salient point allows the listener time to process your words before you move on.
This might be especially difficult under the pressure of public speaking, no matter the size of the group. We often feel anxious and in a hurry to be done. Silence might seem awkward at first if you are focused on your anxiety. However, if you take a breath and exhale slowly you will give your listeners a chance to think about your words. The side benefit to these moments of silence is that while it conveys confidence and increases your credibility, it also calms your nerves.
Silence in Writing
Writing communications is not only a skill of words, it is also a visual skill. This is true for any kind of communication, from marketing materials to e-mails. Even that Facebook rant you hope your friends will read. Long paragraphs, without pause or breaks can give the impression at first glance that it will be difficult reading. That may affect whether or when it gets read. It also makes it harder to scan for information.
You cannot control whether your readers read every word, but you have a better chance of that if you’ve broken up your text with white space (silence) in the form of paragraph breaks.
Silence in Visual Communication
You’ve seen it in marketing. Large expanses of space, possibly with a large block of color and just a few words, maybe just one. This kind of silence is very powerful.
It’s tempting to try to fill space with all the information you want to convey, along with graphics or photographs that relate your message. But without white space your communication becomes too cluttered for the eye to quickly take in. Think about signs you see while driving, then think about the ones without white space – how much information do you actually get? Whether your readers will be driving or not, it’s a fast paced world and time is at a premium. The last thing you want is for people to have to search for relevant information in your communication.
This is a great example of white space. I’m sure Mozilla had a lot more they wanted you to know about their mobile browser, but they need you to be interested first. Their use of white space draws you in and gets you interested.
Next time you’re speaking, writing or designing some form of communication, take a moment of silence. Think about whether adding silence to your message will make it more clear and powerful. Chances are, a little silence will add more than it will detract.