Have you ever found yourself sitting in an airplane on a busy tarmac (remember those?) and everyone on the plane is wondering what’s happening? You’ve been parked, motionless, for five, ten, then fifteen minutes. Slowly you can hear the murmur grow louder and louder. Everyone on the plane, in unison, wants to know what is going on.
Perhaps you feel you’re facing a similar situation right now. You’d love to know more about when your workplace will re-open. You’ve been out for eight months and yet you are getting silence from your bosses.
One more for you. You’ve taken a medical test and the results are critical for you to be able to decide the next steps you’ll take with your life. It doesn’t get much more serious than that, yet the scenario is the same. You are met with silence.
Let me suggest that EVERYONE needs to learn the critical skill of communicating when there is nothing to say. That airplane pilot, the manager at a COVID closed office and especially the healthcare provider who is letting too much time pass in silence.
The offending party in all three of these examples would often respond, “Hey, I don’t have any new information, so I’ve decided to not say anything.”
Can I just say, wrong answer!
Especially in these days when we do not actually SEE each other very often it is very important to sharpen our skill at communicating when there is nothing to say. Here are some suggestions:
Put a timer on it: set a calendar reminder or a timer to regularly update anyone who depends on you for significant information. It’s part of leadership and you shouldn’t have to be told updates are important, even if the update has little or no new information.
Let them know WHY you don’t know: whether it is the ever changing COVID situation, a back-up in the lab or a possible significant shift in weather, your audience will understand if you just explain why the update doesn’t have more information.
Ask for understanding and patience: most of us just want to be recognized – to be acknowledged. If you are told by the powers-that-be they wish they had more information and they are sorry is it is far better than prolonged silence.
Who knew one of the most valuable answers you can provide is one that doesn’t have any new information? The importance of the answer is that is delivered in a time when your audience just needs to hear SOMETHING.
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.