Quietness

Implicit in a lot of what we talk about here is speech. Language, words, messages. We talk, we converse, we respond. (Well, if we’re good we respond.) Like I said yesterday, we tell stories.

But should we? Should we always talk? Is quietness, silence sometimes better? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes we can be too clever, too ready to throw our two cents in the ring. And a good dose of silence can be just what the doctor ordered.

Take for example, this article about insensitive tweets:

[During the most recent 9/11 anniversary], I watched a lot of brands [rise] up on the anniversary of 9/11 to get a word in, to seize the moment, to chime in on tragedy. I’m not talking about the stories of horribly misguided advertising. I’m talking about the brands, however well intentioned, that felt it necessary to say anything at all. The butter brand, the laundry detergent, the car dealership vowing they will “never forget.”

Tragedy is not a commodity or a social currency. It’s not something to leverage, tap into or harness in the name of ROI. It’s not a “like” generator or something that makes your brand more relevant to your consumer. What I want brands to know is that it’s okay to take a step back sometimes. It’s okay to take a time out. Tragedies aren’t a time for self-promotion or proving a point. They’re a time for people.

Sometimes silence can be golden. And we can be too clever.

But quietness doesn’t just have to be useful in emergencies. Sometimes it can be used to help ignore something. Denunciation maintains the story:

The Aerogram’s readers probably noticed that we didn’t do a post on the racist tweets that polluted the #MissAmerica hastag after Davuluri’s big moment. There’s an important reason for that and it can’t be said enough: Racist tweets add nothing to the conversation. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. While the BuzzFeeds of the world thrive on page views and controversy, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and ask what a post that consists of a handful of sentences followed by an endless stream of racist bile brings to the table.

And sometimes, being quiet helps us get through a conversation without doing more harm:

Too often, media spokespersons fall victim to the “tell them everything you know” syndrome. They wrongly believe that their primary role in an interview is to provide the reporter with an in-depth education instead of remembering that their main goal is to influence the story and get the quotes they want.

Mr. Phillip’s recommendation?

Your main task as a spokesperson isn’t to give the reporter facts. If you merely spout facts, you’ll be no more valuable than a Wikipedia entry. Your job is to give those facts context and meaning.

While this advice is good in interview situations, it actually applies to the other two situations as well. Your job is to give facts context and meaning. What meaning are you giving with cheesy disaster related tweets? What context are you giving to racist online remarks? What benefit do your readers, does your audience, gain from that? None. Because you haven’t added anything, you haven’t provided meaning, context or information. Just blather.

Maybe Mom was right, if you don’t have something useful to say, don’t say anything at all.

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Quietness

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