Why Silence Is Your Greatest Weapon
Learning to stay silent may just be what is left for you to become successful
“The less you talk, the more you are listened to.”
Abigail Van Buren.
There are two ways through which you express your inner self: Actions and Words. Most people are loud dreamers. They speak of their goals to everyone who is there to listen. They seek social validation and expect the positive feeling of accomplishment they receive every time someone acknowledges their “ambitious” goals.
If you are one of those people, I’m afraid I have bad news.
There is no result without action. Miracles do not come from your words; they come from what you do. Every time you share your goals, you make them less likely to come true. Instead of gaining motivation from others, you are suffering at the hands of their praises, and your inner conceptions of success.
Not to mention the negative feedback from toxic people. Never let those who are jealous of you know of your goals. They will only hinder your progress.
The False Sense Of Progress
It is simple to assume that sharing your goals and making them a “social commitment” may improve the likelihood of following through with them. That is true in some cases, such as public commitment to a certain self-view. But the same does not work for your identity-based goals.
Let me explain how it works.
Robert B. Cialdini and colleagues have shown that publicly committing to a behavior (such as saying: “I am a productive person”) may help you consistently act in accordance with that statement.
When it comes to your goals, however, the story is a bit different. A famous 2009 study by Peter Gollwitzer of NYU called “When Intentions Go Public” shows that sharing identity-based behavioral intentions can give you a false sense of accomplishment, reducing motivation.
Gollwitzer’s study asked law students to rate their commitment in a questionnaire, then separated those who answered with high levels of commitment into two groups. For the first group, the researchers asked them to confirm their answers and share their commitment. While the second group made their answers anonymous.
After that, the researchers assigned both groups to 45 minutes of work on legal cases. In the end, the group that shared their answers publicly made less effort to complete the work and worked for significantly less time.
You should always make an effort to keep your future goals secret. Making your intentions public can only harm your productive energy. Sharing that you intend to write a novel, for example, will very likely give you a sense of accomplishment and stop you from doing the work.
Your brain sometimes struggles to differentiate words from actions, so you should talk less and focus on doing more.
The Curse of Praise
We all know the dangers of receiving criticism. But it turns out that being praised can also be detrimental to your sense of progress and intrinsic motivation.
Besides giving a false sense of progress, praise can make you believe the wrong things about what made you successful so far.
A study by Reed College, called “Effects of person versus process praise on student motivation: stability and change in emerging adulthood,” shows that praising a personal characteristic instead of the process of attaining a goal may result in decreased motivation and productivity.
The study outlined a principle that works like this: let’s imagine you have just started working on a new project and made some progress. If you share it with your colleagues, and they say: “wow, you must be so smart!” you will suffer decreased motivation. While, if they praise your hard work and effective techniques, you’ll continue to feel motivated.
That happens because when someone praises an innate ability or underlying process such as luck, you will attribute your success to that. If you are smart, or incredibly lucky, then you don’t need to work hard, so your motivation decreases.
The person may have good intentions, but their praises may convince you of the wrong things. Avoid sharing your progress with people who will praise your personality instead of your hard work.
Never Tell Your Opponent What Your Next Move Will Be
This one is self-evident. Never let your enemies, or jealous people know what you intend to do. They will simply find a way to put you down with their negative remarks.
It is foolish to share anything with anyone who dislikes you. Avoid those people, and never tell them anything.
Vow of Silence
It may be too much to ask, but I’ll dare suggest that you should take a Vow of Silence and keep your goals a secret. It’s really difficult to do (as I can say from experience) but very much worth doing.
Deciding to express yourself through actions instead of words can be life-changing — especially if you are particularly talkative like me.
If I managed to convince you to embark on this journey of silence, I have a pdf document that can help. You can download my Productivity Planner here. The pdf document involves more than a vow of silence since I made it for a more comprehensive article on productivity that I’ll be posting on my main website (One Billion Rule) soon. The Vow of Silence is the last exercise you’ll find on the pdf.
Good Luck. And stay silent.