I've been thinking a lot about the power of silence in the last 24 hours. It's the topic of an essay I wrote last night for an altMBA project. The project was specifically about using silence as a technique in sales, which is not a thing I've ever done (sales, not silence). A member of my cohort who is a lawyer talked a bit about how he learned to use it in legal negotiations as well.
My examples come more from the emotional and teaching realm - trying to find the right way to prod a person and then back off if I want to draw them out or help them through a crisis. That tension is actually easier for me (as long as I'm not emotionally involved in the crisis) than the tension in teaching - in giving an instruction or an assignment, knowing full well the person who I'm trying to teach doesn't know how to approach the problem, and creating an environment where it's OK to fail (even though they don't want to), and then waiting for them to do it. So hard for me.
What was interesting to me is in reading other people's essays this afternoon, is the huge gender difference in the responses. The men who get it are lawyers and sales people. The women who get it are...all of us. The other men couldn't give a concrete example from their lives. They could talk about the idea, but not the execution. I wonder how much of that is a cultural thing - women are expected to be quiet while men are expected to be proactive and speak. I'm trying to think about how I can be more conscious of silence in my meetings and negotiations in the future. It's a good thing to be aware of, at least.