The Value of Silence

In an era when everyone can say whatever they want and often do, silence delivers more than you would think. In fact, there is great value in silence.

Let me give you an example. I had a client that was driving me nuts, and it was all I could do from expressing my frustration. I sat down with xx in a meeting, and was catching a fair amount of grief all while listening to the passionate defense of a few questionable decisions.

Though annoyed, I kept my mouth closed. I had already voiced my opinion on said projects. After a few minutes, the client said, “And we’d like to give you another $20,000 project.”

It literally paid to shut up.

When You Are Quiet

15097211500_aa411165db_k (1)

When you are quiet, you have more energy. You become aware of everything around you.

You see things that are right in front of your eyes, things that you would normally miss. You are awake.

Online Perception

15080160689_69909de25e_k

Every now and then people need to say what they have to say. Some things demand an outcry. Recent NFL delinquencies come to mind. But when there you see a consistent pattern of mouthiness, it’s often perceived as egocentric.

I often see my past critical blogging as a petty attempts to justify actions, feel smarter than other people, or drive traffic in the face of a controversy. More importantly, such actions were hurtful to others.

When I became fully aware three years ago, I made a commitment to change. Often that meant not saying what came to mind. The value of silence outweighed the benefits of saying what I wanted.

I forced myself to a new content standard, one that didn’t engage in this kind of judgement. Content needed to be beneficial, and if it was critical, it had to be in a general way. This was difficult at times, but it built character.

Today, my blog is much less popular, in part because I did things like cut frequency and removed social media as a primary topic. But, I also know there is less traffic because posts are less controversial now. There is no train wreck to witness.

Yet my business and personal results are better now. I get more deals now because I am less vociferous. Clients feel safe now and don’t have to worry about a loose cannon blogger on their team. My relationships with others are better in all aspects of my life.

It’s the value of silence.

Poise

15097150479_89173efe8a_k

I could not keep my mouth closed four years ago. What changed? First I became a Dad, second I realized how mouthiness was hurting myself and others, and then finally, I became the sole breadwinner in my family.

Today — most of the time — I avoid engaging in negative posts, actions and conversations.

I’m not always able to act with poise. In fact, earlier this year I received a communication from someone I caught red-handed poaching resources from one of my interests. The person demanded how I discovered their actions. My anger got the best of me and I reacted, calling them out for unethical behavior. It’s been war ever since.

That relationship was a competitive one already, but the additional negative energy was something I could have avoided. Instead, I created an unnecessary distraction and time suck. Yet another reminder that shooting your mouth off doesn’t pay.

But usually, I keep my mouth closed. Pick your battles wisely, my friends.

Life with a Scarlet Letter

This blog post is running in support of my Punish Geoff Fundraiser: CivilinationPlease consider a donation to support better online conversations. At the time of publishing, we have raised more than $3,000 for the Civilination Academy.

Long-term readers know I have attempted to evolve my language to become more mindful of others. Part of that reparation is learning to live with that negative reputation publicly — my proverbial Scarlet Letter — and handle new disagreements.

At SxSW two different people informed me how a person was telling everyone what an A&^hole I was every time my name came up. It’s no coincidence that this person is someone I wrangled with on here and elsewhere. He’s not the only one. So the damage continues long after the matter passed.

The way I see it, I have two paths; one is to leave the interwebs, walk with some shame, and live a quiet life as a marketer behind the scenes. As entertaining as that seems many days, this path lacks courage.

Part of  acknowledging the problem for me means moving forward in the face of it, and continuing to exist in the ecosystem, albeit in a more productive fashion. I have things to say, and can contribute to the larger conversation.

To do that, I have to accept the repercussions. For me, that means openly acknowledging my mouth, and acting more responsibly. A tainted reputation means you have history. You can’t run from history. You can only openly acknowledge it, make your amends, and live with the outcomes.

I counsel clients who have public errors to do the same. There is no pushing issues under the rug. In fact, that exacerbates the problem.

So you own it, and accept your scars. You let your new actions speak for themselves, good or bad.

New Disagreements

8178189548_3473ceb3a0

While I have stopped taking people’s name in vain, so to speak, I do still have disagreements. And you know what, sometimes I feel like I’m right, and I won’t yield.

I’m not going to hurt someone’s reputation directly, but I won’t openly encourage folks to engage in negative actions towards me just to people please.

I was wrong in the past. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in becoming a public or private punching bag as a penance. Change necessitates a more moderated approach, not a complete pendulum shift.

Instead, I choose to detach, distance or ignore. I suppose I have become colder, and less passionate or emotionally invested in issues. I’d rather not feed the negative, instead walking away and turning to a more productive activity.

People that receive this cold distant shoulder can easily say, “Hey, he is the same guy.” And that’s fine, it’s part of living with the scarlet letter. I have to take those hits. Folks can say what they want, but believe me, all parties are living easier without my proverbial cannon locked and loaded.

It’s the path I choose to walk so I can stay public and look myself in the mirror with comfort. As time evolves, I am sure my approach will change, too.

How do you handle the impact of your past errors?

Featured image by ErinJane7284