The art of communication – silence is golden


I work in consumer communications. I know the consumer and I am a consumer. And in a world in which more power is now in the hands of the consumer than ever, with digital technology and social media, we have all become accustomed to what Leo Babauta calls instant gratification.

This is the affliction from which has been born the life mantra #YOLO (You Only Live Once) and its anxiety-ridden cousin #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And whilst a carpe diem attitude has much to commend it, a ‘sieze everything because a missed opportunity equates to failure’ can only be unhealthy and unhelpful.

I look around my friendship group. Specialist doctors, marketers, charity workers, chefs and post-graduate students; all mid 20s to mid 30s, every one exhausted physically and mentally by the lives that they lead. Even those that live and breathe social media, like me and the digital force that is Whatley Dude, understand that there comes a time when it’s necessary “to switch off. Unplug. Get over that craving of instant gratification and just relax.”

London is one of the busiest cities in the world, one of the most exciting and most buoyant in terms of things to do and see. But there are only so many hours in the day and, for most people, it just isn’t enough.

Myself included…

The alarm on my work phone wakes me up in the morning. I turn it off and check my emails. I have 2 work inboxes and 1 personal inbox. I then check my phone for text messages before jumping in the shower. On the way to the station, I check Twitter and Facebook. I have several Twitter accounts to run through, as some of them are clients. Once at the station, I grab a copy of Metro, but I only have about 20 minutes of travel time to read it before the walk to the office.

Once in the office, it’s straight onto emails and I open my time sheets. Every 15 minute increment is logged to a client, new business activity, or industry reading. No time is ‘wasted’. If I leave at 6pm, I’m back on the phones. There is normally personal admin to deal with; things to do with tenants, building work, bills etc. Then I realise that I haven’t yet replied to 10 or so texts from friends and relatives, so I need to check my work phone for the diary.

From time to time, I might go to the gym: 1 hour all to myself, no communication at all – just me and the yoga mat. And quietness of the mind.

Then I leave the gym and rush to the station to get the Overground, before heating something up or throwing something in a frying pan with the telly on in the background. If I’ve a couple of hours before my head hits the pillow, it’s spent in the blogosphere, reading articles or watching videos that people have shared with me, or trying to catch up on correspondence with those that require a little more than 140 characters or an update more than a couple of SMS’s in length.

We are bombarded with messages and stimulus all the time.

I wrote a little while ago about having no ‘dead time’ and how creativity can suffer because of this. Now, I am a born communicator. But I’m not always as vocal as you might think. I pick and choose what I share on social media, I won’t comment unless I have something positive to say and I often won’t say anything at all.

This is because the art of communication is subtle, and to be a true proficient, one needs to know not just what to say but be able to recognise when it’s better to say nothing at all.

Silence can be a powerful tool in negotiations with others, but it can also be your friend when you’re the only one around. If you have a chance to be quiet, take it. Try looking inside, says Prem Rawat; not outside for more stimulus, more instant gratification. It might surprise you what you find.

Jo Furnival is Blog Editor at All about the Idea and, from time to time, turns off her phones, tablets and computers and just RELAXES. At most other times, she advises clients on their social media communications and the way this weaves throughout a brand’s overall marketing plan.


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