The Value of Quietness in a Noisy World

Noise. It’s all around us, just about everywhere that we go. We are constantly bombarded by noise. As a society, we seem to value noisiness in people – it gets other people’s attention. Whoever talks the loudest in class gets the attention of the teacher, the person who talks the most in meetings gets promoted, the guy who tells the most stories is seen as most interesting, the kid who cries the loudest gets consoled, and the girl who boasts about her accomplishments gets rewarded. (Of course, this is somewhat reductive and not always the case, but there is a trend here, and most people can probably understand the point here.)

In our work lives, there are always emails, phone calls, beeping and buzzing smart phones,   meeting after meeting, etc… There are constant interruptions that reduce productivity and likely increase our stress level. There is always a lot of talk or noise about getting things done, but it is often difficult to find the time to actually get those things accomplished. (Which can cause even more stress!) But, if we actually take time to sit quietly and focus on specific projects, without interruption, it’s amazing how much work can get done. We heard about someone who locks himself away for a couple of days in a hotel to produce long articles.

Recently, there have been a couple of pieces that talk about this dichotomy between quietness and noisiness. It’s interesting to think about whether in terms of how you go through your daily life or how our society values those who make the most noise.

In the article, “The Link Between Quietness And Productivity,” in Fast Company, Roberta Matuson raises some interesting ideas about valuing the quiet producers among us: “Sometimes we forget that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. In fact, it’s often the quiet ones who out-produce everyone else.”

And she provides us with some reasons why she believes this to be true:

●        Being quiet strengthens focus.

●        Being quiet calms others.

●        Being quiet conveys confidence.

●        Being quiet means you think before you speak.

●        Being quiet gives you the space to dig deep.

Another interesting piece about this is topic is, “Silence: The Surprising Way to Achieve a Goal,” in Inc., which posits that the more you talk about doing something, the less likely you are to actually do it.

“Everyone has a huge personal goal they want to accomplish–a big, challenging, amazing goal. They think about it, dream about it, obsess about it… but they never accomplish it.

That could be because they also talk about it.”

Maybe those quiet people are on to something. The author of this article, Jeff Haden, suggests that you: “Pick a goal. Create a plan to achieve it. Then keep your goal and your plan to yourself. Focus solely on doing the work required to achieve your goal.” And, of course, don’t talk about it! Until you’ve accomplished it.

Wouldn’t it be a great exercise to set aside specific quiet time — a block of time when you won’t send or read emails or make or answer phone calls, unless they’re related to what you’re doing — to produce one thing that you have been thinking about or talking about forever? What do you say? Up for the challenge? Maybe we shouldn’t talk about it, and just do it. In all seriousness, let us know some ways that some of you have made this work.

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