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The Courage to Shut Up

the courage to shut up

Frequently, one of the participants in a Latimer workshop will say something that totally grabs me. And I always will pause the workshop, write a note in my “ideas book” and then say, “That will be a blog post, and I can footnote you, if you want.” In this case, the participant politely declined a footnote.

We were having a discussion about listening, and how few people do it well. And the conversation started to roam around a bit, to related topics like leadership, consensus, and respect. Listening has all sorts of impacts on other people and organizations. When we don’t listen to each other, all sorts of bad things happen.

As we were discussing this, the point was made that listening takes courage. It takes courage to give up control. It takes courage to let other people speak their mind, because you can’t control what they will say. They might, God forbid, disagree with you! It takes courage to allow other perspectives into the conversation.

And one of the participants that day paraphrased the whole conversation with the following… “It takes courage to shut up.” Exactly the point.

In today’s world… ESPECIALLY in today’s world… letting other people have a chance to speak is a requirement, for effective leadership, communication, team building… all sorts of things. In a social media driven world, one way communication, while common online, is not a recipe for success. Communication has always been a two-way street. But the need for it is more important now than it has been in a long time.

My colleagues and I teach effective communication for a living. We are proud of what we teach, and how we teach it. And one of the best things any communicator can do is to realize when the appropriate move is to say absolutely nothing. If the conversation is going in a good place… if someone who does not normally speak up is speaking up… if you really want involvement and engagement and it is starting to happen… the best play might be to say absolutely nothing.

Have the courage to shut up once in a while. Or, to quote Winston Churchill: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Try it some time.

Have a great day.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at

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