As minorities, we are often coached in the workplace to be more assertive, to be clear about our professional goals, to find ways to talk about our accomplishments and successes, and to ask for feedback. Most studies show that not speaking up at work can be detrimental to your advancement in the company. But it’s also important to find a balance; being overly expressive could derail your ambitions.
“What you don’t want to do is make everything a battle,” explains Marlon Cousin, managing partner for The Marquin Group, an executive recruiting firm in Atlanta. “Minorities want their voice to be heard, they don’t want to be taken advantage of, and so we tend to create a high sense of urgency for unnecessary issues.” Cousin offers advice on how silence can sometimes work to your advantage.
It gives you perspective
Listening gives you the advantage of learning how others in your company think. “Sometimes it’s best to sit in silence. You’d be surprised how you can triumph in a situation, because now you have been given cues on how to navigate differently.”
It gives you clearer insight
In an adversarial situation, manage your emotions, present the facts, and ask the right questions. Emotional arguing puts you on the defensive. Strategic silence gives you a chance to better analyze the information and provide appropriate responses.
It shows maturity
“Those who always have to have the last word, always have to prove their point, position themselves as always having something to prove.” That’s not the reputation you want in the workplace.