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Make Peace With Silence


Make Peace With Silence

By Mario Morby

Words like violence
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world

Enjoy the silence. 

Lyrics from one of, if not, the greatest song of the 90s?  Don’t know. Maybe. 

As much as I’d like to debate music from the 90s that would sort of contradict what I’m about to say, which is everyone in an agency needs to start enjoying the silence a little more. 

Opinions matter and words sell, silence is anathema. I get it. 

Hypothesis, manifestos, mood videos, messaging hierarchies, customer conversations, community management; this is the circle of life. Dialogue is how we solve problems and the compulsive ping pong of verbal reactivity is how we get stuff done. It’s how we create brand value (and shareholder value).  That’s why we reward and recognize the verbal contributions we make in briefings, meetings and workshops.  And yet we do nothing to acknowledge and reward the great listeners. Can you remember that last time you complimented someone for their listening skills? Is it even a KPI? 

We live in a time where attention is one of the scarcest commodities and it’s getting scarcer by the day, that’s why I believe putting more emphasis on the listening and the unspoken is the best way to get good. And there are two reasons for this: 

  1. It is what brands don’t say that counts 

 There was a study carried out in the 70s that still rings true today; the effective communication of feelings and attitudes comes from 7% verbal, 38% tonal and 55% facial.  So, if we want to prime audiences to feel a certain way about brands, we have to put more emphasis and effort on the non-verbal cues. Casting, for example, a Mediterranean man to play an Arabic role, is just as noticeable as the explicit messaging and will say more about the brand than the super or the voice over.

  1. Creativity thrives when people listen

It’s taken 5 days to get to this point. It’s a big deal. The CD starts talking and turns over the first idea. And then it happens. You’ve diverted your energy from listening to critiquing, from paying attention to mentally crafting your super interesting response. The creative idea is verbalized but it’s unnoticed. Creativity needs freedom of movement between people, which means it needs to travel without barrier and borders. Not listening is the biggest barrier to great ideas.  

So, if we want our clients to enjoy the benefits of strategic and creative effectiveness then we owe it to ourselves to start enjoying the silence. And here are five things you can do to make that happen:  

  1. Hearing is not listening. 

There’s a difference, earing happens automatically, listening requires effort. Hearing is a sensory response, listening is a meaningful connection.  

  1. Suspend judgement. 

Allow your assumptions to be challenged rather than defending them.

  1. Respond with questions not statements. 

A question requires understanding and understanding only comes from attentiveness. 

  1. Compliment the listeners around you.  

Make it a thing where people around you are praising those who listen well.

  1. Make peace with the silence. 

Find your comfortable space in the awkwardness of silence. 

Mario Morby is the Head of Planning, Dubai, FP7 McCann Dubai. Opinions expressed in this piece belongs to the author.

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