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The Power of Silence

What we don’t say is often more powerful than what we do.

Salespeople know. You make the offer or ask, and then be quiet: Get comfortable with the silence.

I’m reminded of the story about the uber-saleswoman who worked for months to get an appointment with a CEO. When she walked into the CEO’s office (clearly, pre-COVID-19), the CEO did not offer her a seat, did not look up from his work and said, “You have ten minutes. Give it your best shot!” And continued to do his work.

The saleswoman stood there quietly.

After three minutes, the CEO said, ‘You have seven minutes left.’ Still, the saleswoman stood, and said nothing.

After another three minutes, the clearly exasperated CEO said, “I gave you ten minutes. You have four minutes left! What the heck are you doing?”

The saleswoman said, “You gave those minutes to me. They are my ten minutes. I’m using them to observe, and to listen.”

She got more than the 10 minutes, and she made the sale.

When we talk about effective communicators, we often mean good talkers. People who know how to get their points across—to get people’s attention—to make them feel. It’s a key component of leadership. As writer/pundit Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A true component of leadership is knowing what people are doing, thinking and feeling. Emotions drive our responses to situations and people, more so than spreadsheets or databases. Facts matter, and they certainly influence strategic and tactical decisions, but they don’t drive performance, behavior or results. Perception and emotion do. Listening to our customers, our markets, and our colleagues at work—and to our friends and families at home—is a differentiator for our success.

Mom told you as a child that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We cannot listen when we are speaking. Listening is an art, a science, a gift. It’s an essence of leadership communication that is often lost. Active listening tells us we need to listen to the words. Be fully present. Reflect back what we hear. Engage.

Deeper listening—what coaches call Third Level listening—is tuning into the emotion, the effect and body language, the essence of what is being communicated, not just what is being said. Indeed, it’s often between the lines where the true message lives. Listen with your ears, eyes, heart, and your gut. Tune in. You cannot do any of that if you are not paying attention, or if you are talking or thinking about what you want to say.

The power of silence is the power of deep listening. We need it now, more than ever. Be quietly present for, and listen deeply to, the people in your business. They are probably dealing with situations in their lives due to COVID-19 unlike any before. Employ the power of silence: You will learn—and you will earn their respect.

There’s one other aspect of the power of silence right now that’s truly transformative. My silence about the injustice and inequality for people of color in this world is powerfully wrong. My silence about children having to be prepared for injustice just because they are different has been powerfully creative in a truly harmful way. By having meaningful dialogue—and actively supporting meaningful action to change that reality—I can help change the world for good. The power of silence. Let’s listen. ♦

Stephen Garber is CEO of Third Level, which provides innovative solutions that help senior-level executives, HR professionals and business owners perform at an elite level. (561.752.5505 or
sgarber@thirdlevel.com)

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.