Knowing when to talk and when not to talk is valuable wisdom. There is great value in keeping quiet, and the world is full of people who make far too much noise saying nothing worthwhile. Don’t be one of those people.
Here are eight examples of when to keep your mouth shut rather than open it.
1. When you want to correct someone.
There are times when you should correct people. Like, if it’s a matter of life and death (“No! you cut the blue wire not the red wire or we will all explode!!”), by all means say something. But, say someone says, “From Dusk till Dawn” was directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you know it was actually directed by Robert Rodriguez. What happens when you correct them, particularly in front of others? You might wind up in an argument about it, then Google it to prove you’re right. Now what? You’ve demonstrated your superior knowledge, but the other person might feel stupid and resent you for embarrassing them. They probably are not going to thank you. Leave it alone.
2. When you want to gossip.
When you want to say something negative about someone behind their back, don’t. This is pretty much always a bad idea. It makes you look childish and meanspirited. And it might get back to the person you’re trash talking because you never know who you can trust. Also, it’s just a crappy thing to do.
3. When you’re angry.
It’s always best to wait until you calm down to speak. We are never at our most thoughtful and articulate when we are angry. It can be very hard to stop yourself from speaking when you’re mad, but try. You will be so glad you did.
4. When you want to keep someone talking.
Keeping quiet can make other people talk more, because they are uncomfortable with the silence. Think about how often you say something just to fill the void when there is a lull in a conversation. Try keeping quiet instead. You will probably find that the other person goes on to talk instead. This can be particularly useful when you’re looking for information about something. Just wait and you just might get more than you ask for.
5. When the deal isn’t closed.
There’s a reason they say not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. Never announce a deal until everyone has signed on the dotted like (and sometimes even until you get your first payment or have made your first exchange of good or services). That way you won’t feel stupid if things fall through.
6. When you have asked a question.
How often do we hear people ask questions and not listen to the answers? Don’t be that person. Listen. Maybe you’ll learn something.
7. When someone else is talking.
Don’t interrupt. It’s rude.
8. When you have set a big goal.
People think that sharing your goals with others increases your chances of reaching them but research suggests the opposite is true. Studies by NYU professor Peter Gollwitzer have found that people who keep their intentions to themselves are more likely to achieve them than those who make them public. Another reason for not announcing your plans is that if you don’t follow through, you won’t feel like a public failure. Just a private one.
Harness the power of silence. You might be surprised at how much benefit it brings.