When someone does something that displeases you, what is your initial reaction? If you are like many, your tendency is to raise your voice, but it may be more effective to do the opposite. Silence can be a more powerful tool in your supervisory arsenal.

A colleague recounts the story of an employee who erred and after she gave her explanation and mea culpas, he sat there and nodded. The silence was more unnerving than a reprimand would have been, and she said so. “Aren’t you going to yell at me?” she asked. No.

In a vastly different arena than supervision, the puppy training manuals encourage the same treatment when the dog has an accident. Instead of scolding, ignoring the puppy and giving it the silent treatment is claimed to be more powerful. Puppies want affirmation and affiliation so instead of scaring it, shun it and behavior modification will come more quickly, or so the theory goes.

While I am not advocating for silence in all (or even many) situations, saying nothing does have its role. If the deed is already done, the person has acknowledged the error and learned from it, there may be nothing more meaningful to say.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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