Every message counts

It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes silence may be a valuable communications tool. Actors know the value of a dramatic pause to provide emphasis or a change of pace. Indeed, a well-timed moment of silence can leave your audience trembling in antici…


It’s something I often see in meetings. There can be temptation to fill every moment with a comment or statement. The more appropriate thing to do would be to wait and let the message sink in, giving people time to think about their response rather than rush to give a less considered one.

This was the advice given to me when I first met a very well-regarded company chairman: “Don’t feel tempted to interrupt the silence!”. It was extremely valuable advice. Our meeting was characterised by long periods of quiet reflection and I must admit I was itching to say something to move the conversation on, but I bit my tongue and the discussion was richer for it. We both had time to listen, reflect and then respond as we gave each other room to think.

Making every message count

So when thinking about the implications for communications, there are several ways that a moment of quiet can be helpful:

  • During a period of change, can you give employees time to reflect on news or consider the changes being asked of them? Don’t push them straight into the next thing
  • Has a campaign come to a natural conclusion ahead of time? If so, let it go rather than keep banging the drum for something that employees have moved on from
  • Give people time to catch up on channels rather than forcing through even more content that shoots past eyes quicker than they can read it
  • Feel comfortable pushing back on earnest demands for communication NOW! Help them understand the need to pace communications so it finds the right moment to breathe.

And for ourselves, it’s useful to keep in mind the value that time to reflect can have on our own creativity and wellbeing. A good sit-down with nothing else going on can create a moment where our minds can wander and tackle issues that otherwise might remain unsolved if only approached in the midst of the daily hubbub.

This can feel difficult to achieve right now, with the various pressures facing communicators in the current crisis. Perhaps grant yourself an hour where you switch chat to ‘Do Not Disturb’, close email and switch the phone to silent. You may find your best work relies on it.