Silence as a Statement

Political leaders are rarely known for being quiet. However, silence doesn’t necessarily equate lack of communication. Let’s look at two examples of public figures who communicated effectively using silence.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was nicknamed Silent Cal. In fact, Coolidge was so reluctant to speak that he often made important statements in writing, even if he was in the same room as the person with whom he was communicating. Coolidge, however, believed his silence was a strength: “I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”

In 1927, President Coolidge announced a rare press conference. Reporters were asked to file past the president as they arrived, and Coolidge personally handed each man a strip of paper that said, “I do not choose to run for president in 1928.”

CalvinCoolidge

 

The reporters were stunned. Coolidge was considered a shoo-in for another term. They pelted the president with questions. Why didn’t he want to run? Was he afraid he might lose? What did he want to do after his presidency? Who would he support as the next president?

At last Coolidge spoke: “There will be nothing more from this office today.”

 

Did you know Adolf Hitler is one of the most frequently cited communicators in history? His ability to hold an audience spellbound with words and gestures continues to fascinate communication experts, even as it defies understanding.  Hitler’s use of silence is not as well-known, but he did use it very effectively as a method of commanding a crowd’s complete attention.

hitler1936

Huge crowds would come to hear the dictator speak, and even with a microphone to amplify his voice, Hitler couldn’t compete with thousands of other chattering voices. So when he was ready to speak, he would stand in the center of the stage silently. The people in the front row immediately quieted, feeling the Fuhrer’s eyes on them. The rows behind them became quiet as they realized no one in front of them was speaking. Like a wave, each row became quiet until the place was absolutely silent. Every eye was focused on Hitler, every ear strained to hear what he had to say – all without him saying a word.

Perhaps silence is the most underused method of communication?

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