Leap Year Lesson #207: You Have the Right to Remain Silent (and the Capacity, If You Try)

Posted: July 28, 2012 in Communication
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In the movie Shrek 2, Shrek tells Donkey “You have the right to remain silent.  What you lack is the capacity.”  I know several such donkeys.

There are two very different contexts in which this thought comes to mind.  The first scenario may be in a meeting at work, in casual conversation with a group, watching interviews or news shows on TV, or reading seemingly endless posts on social media where some people just don’t know when they ought to stop talking.  They are so focused on themselves and what they want to say that they fail to read the social clues all around them that others don’t want to hear any more from them.

To such people I suggest they try the following sometime:  Imagine there is a stopwatch hanging around the neck of everyone in the conversation.  Now imagine that each person’s stopwatch kicks in only when he/she is talking.  Now imagine the time displayed on your stopwatch compared to others around you.  If yours has been running longer than theirs, you have not only the right but also the obligation to be silent.  Silence is not an enemy.  You don’t need to fill all moments with sound, even if others do not fill the silence either.

The second context in which the rule also applies is when pressured by others with endless questions and inquiries for which you have no legal or work-related obligation to respond.  You don’t have to let your time be controlled by others who approach you with questions, emails, instant messages, etc.  You need to maintain control of your time and your accomplishments.  (The exception – parents of young children constantly asking “why?” – God grant you patience.)

Allowing others to detract you from your purpose and focus may seem courteous to others, but it is detrimental to accomplishing your goals.  For example, I would never get more important tasks accomplished at work if I allowed every potential interruption to take precedence over what I know I need to finish.

Regardless of the context above that may apply, remember leap year lesson #207 – You have the right to remain silent (and the capacity, if you try).

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