Talk Only When It Improves The Silence

Talk Only When It Improves The Silence.

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. Odd, right?

It has some decent tools to make new contacts, to reconnect with lost colleagues, and to provide support. You know this. The discussion groups are sometimes quite interesting. People ask questions, and they get answers, on everything from “How do I network without looking like a stalker” to “What’s the best way to handle crisis communications?” There has been leakage over the years into politics and toxic masculinity, and sometimes people post Facebook-y content that has zero business being in there.

But all in all, I’m not mad at it.

I enjoy answering questions on both Quora and LinkedIn. I can sense if I have dispensed decent advice by the tone of the responses that follow mine. Was I on track with my remarks? Did I take too strong a tone?

When you work in corporate communications, you have to capture the essence of what the leadership wants to communicate, and distill it properly. You hear the bosses say the words:

“We are going to have to do another round of layoffs.”

“Quarterly earnings were not where they needed to be.”

“We’re going to add four remote positions for sales enablement.”

Then you have to repeat it to the team and the stakeholders. How will it play in the hallways or on Slack? How will the press and industry publications react?

I like this part of the exercise. I like looking inside someone’s head and attempting to mirror their words -and perhaps this isn’t the best way to describe it- to interpolate what needs to be said. To insert some extra words, so that the message is received clearly. I’ve said it before; I don’t need to be The Person Behind The Desk. I’m quite content to be the Person In The Room. It shows implied trust. I’ve learned it’s important to me. In my last role, I got to be in on some delicate conversations. My bosses knew I’d keep it in the vault. If I was behind the desk, I’d have people in the room too. You listen to people, many who are smarter than you, and then you call the play.

I have a  friend who wrote a lot of words for John McCain when he ran for President. She was really good at translating his thoughts into ideas.  It wasn’t her fault these ideas were not part of a winning strategy, but she did her job, as the woman “in the room.”

This guy recently put up a post in a LinkedIn chat about his futile search for work. He was lamenting that he “doesn’t know anybody” and “the only good jobs are available for people who already have them”, et al.

I practiced the art of listening and distilling with him. I posted to him (and I’m paraphrasing here):

You’re on LinkedIn. You know lots of people. Employers don’t think people with a Covid resume gap, or any other gap, are lousy hires. Good companies are always looking for a problem solver. If you do your homework, apply for jobs you are truly qualified for, and bring it during the interview, you’ve always got a shot. Be tenacious. Get beat down, stand up, and put one foot in front of the other. Keep Walking. Never give up.

A couple of days later, I received this, from a woman named Monique:

Hi John,
Your comment on the job discussion was very uplifting and I wanted to tell you that you are a huge inspiration to me and my husband. Thank you for being a fighter and for providing light to others in the job search. We want to celebrate with you when you land your new job.
Have a great day!


What pleased me the most was I felt like I helped one guy with advice, and some karmic shrapnel hit Monique and her husband. And she sold a house, too.  Nice.

In order to relay a message for a friend, a corporate boss, or a stranger, it requires listening.

A plaque on my office wall reminds me to shut up sometimes.

It says Talk Only when it Improves the Silence.

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