6 Ways to Exert Power By Listening More and Speaking Less

There are times when it is unwise to be silent. Silence can arouse suspicion and even insecurity, especially in your superiors; a vague or ambiguous comment can open you up to interpretations you had not bargained for. Silence and saying less than necessary must be practiced with caution, then, and in the right situations. Let us take a look at 6 ways to exert more power by practicing listening.

1. Make People Reveal More About Themselves

Speaking less will make people reveal more about themselves. This is information you may be able to use against them later on. Your short answers and silences will put them on the defensive, and they will jump in, nervously filling the silence with all kinds of comments that will reveal valuable information about them and their weaknesses. The longer you listen, the more others move their lips and teeth. As they move their lips and teeth, you can thereby understand their real intentions.

2. People Listen/Interpret Your Every Word Carefully

Speaking Less will force people to listen/interpret your every word carefully. Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpretation and explanation; they have to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions or your meaning. They will leave a meeting with and they will go home and ponder your every word. This extra attention to your brief comments will only add to your power. Masters of enigma Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp knew the power of saying less and keeping people guessing. The less Duchamp talked about his work, the more it was talked about in the art circles. Andy Warhol recognized it was hard to talk people into doing what you wanted, so when interviewed, he would give vague and ambiguous answers and let the interviewer find his own interpretation.

3. Once The Words Are Out, You Cannot Take Them Back
Keep them under control. Be particularly careful with sarcasm: The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.

4. The More You Say, The More Common You Appear
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control.  Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. 

5. Saying Less Will Keep You From Saying Something Foolish or Even Dangerous.
Around 454 B.C, Coriolanus was a great military hero of ancient Rome. People held him in awe. He decided to run for senate and he spoke his mind, hardly able to control his arrogance and boastfulness. He slandered and insulted people. The more speeches he made, the less people respected him. He suffered the people’s wrath and was eventually banished from the city.

6. People Will Not Deceive You As They Will Never Know Your Position 
 Louis XIV was a man of very few words. His infamous "I shall see" was one of several extremely short phrases that he would apply to all manner of requests. Louis was not always this way; as a young man he was known for talking at length, delighting in his own eloquence. His later taciturnity was self-imposed, an act, a mask he used to keep everybody below him off-balance. No one knew exactly where he stood, or could predict his reactions. No one could try to deceive him by saying what they thought he wanted to hear, because no one knew what he wanted to hear. As they talked on and on to the silent Louis, they revealed more and more about themselves, information he would later use against them to great effect. In the end, Louis's silence kept those around him terrified and under his thumb. It was one of the foundations of his power. As Saint-Simon wrote, "No one knew as well as he how to sell his words, his smile, even his glances. Everything in him was valuable because he created differences, and his majesty was enhanced by the sparseness of his words."

Saying less than necessary is not for kings and statesmen only. In most areas of life, the less you say, the more profound and mysterious you appear. By saying less than necessary you create the appearance of meaning and power. Also, the less you say, the less risk you run of saying something foolish, even dangerous.

This is Law 4 of 'Laws of Power' series. The 'Laws of Power' Series will outline the laws which will help you to become Powerful and Avoid Getting Manipulated. Get the series by email. The Laws are adapted from The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. You can read the entire series at The Laws of Power: How to Become Powerful and Avoid Getting Manipulated.
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