Anyway for me, small chat, big chat, idle chat, it’s all chat that I don’t want to be having. Put me on email and I’m incredible. I’m an email assassin. I could tear you a new arsehole if you’ve been mean to me, or make you feel like the happiest person alive through the power of my emails. But actual in person conversation? Urgh!
This aversion to conversation has also time and time again surfaced in the work context. “Oh Arani, you’re great but you need to speak up more”. Bastards, don’t get that I’ll happily even communicate via interpretative dance if it means I don’t actually have to speak words and engage in conversation with them.
So it came as a surprise to me, that after all these years of cultivating the street cred of being a “text person” [yeah I’m re-using this pic…basically because I think it’s the greatest photo of me ever taken…yes I just said that]
It came as a surprise to me that of all the scenarios where you require conversation, the one scenario that I’ve become miraculously good at is DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS. “WHAAAAAT? WTF??? When did that happen?” I hear you say? I know! I was the same.
It’s like I’ve had this internal body clock that when I turned 28, suddenly difficult conversations became less like an eruption of random words being strung together to make a very poor point coupled with swelling tear ducts that are screaming to break and a red nose which you tell your boss is just “the cold weather” but in reality is the warning signal to him that “WATCH OUT! Tears coming!!!” Now difficult conversations are amazingly manageable [cue rapturous applause because being able to control my tear ducts in difficult conversations essentially means I’ve discovered the meaning of life].
So what’s the secret (apart from turning 28)?…it’s pretty incredible. SILENCE…..[note that by saying that in all caps it’s not meant to imply that you shout ‘silence’…it’s actually the silence in the quiet sense]
Yep good old fashioned silence. Pure, awkward silence.
Let me show you how it works. Say you’re in a conversation with a senior to justify that your project should go ahead/some bit of data just doesn’t exist despite your best efforts/ they’ve been really annoying you because they made a negative off-hand comment in front of a client ….again remember this is a hypothetical and definitely not taken from real life situations. So in all of these instances, it’s so easy to just keep talking to justify your position. I mean you don’t always get this time to make your point to said senior person, and you need to make sure they understand. You might have prepared what you were going to say, but inevitably you keep talking, and talking, and talking, and they keep nodding and listening and you find yourself rambling… rambling to make sure they hear your, rambling to reinforce your point in thirteen thousand different ways, rambling yourself into oblivion.
But why not try this…
You make one point in one sentence…they look at your expectantly waiting for more…[now right here you’d start talking again but STOP! Silence. Just be quiet]…they realise that the silence will only end if they start talking…the silence is too much for them….they’re used to gaining power via you rambling your way into oblivion. But just wait. They might ask you a couple more questions, but to be honest, asking good questions on the spot is fucking hard, so you find it easy to bat away their questions *POW! POW!* You continue to make another considered but brief point…and again silence. Now they’re rambling, trying to fill in the silence. They’re looking flustered, not sure of what is going on. “Ergh ergh…ergh”. They’re struggling. All the while, you remain perfectly in control. Silence.
There’s a reason why society always rewards the calm, brooding type with awesome titles such as “calm and considered”, “good leader under pressure” and “Batman”…no one ever thinks the raging fool who can’t stop the verbal diarrhea is a hero. It just never happens.