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Listening to the Vital Truth of Silence

By Eric J. Russell, Ed.D., CHPP

HCI Research Associate

When Robert Greenleaf conceptualized the Modern Philosophy of servant leadership, he placed listening at the forefront of what it means to be a servant leader. The key, he noted, was to listen first. Moreover, to spend a little time in the silence.

In his seminal essay The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf stated, “One must not be afraid of a little silence. Some find silence awkward or oppressive. But a relaxed approach to dialogue will include the welcoming of some silence. It is often a devastating question to ask oneself, but it is sometimes important to ask it - 'In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?”

In our highspeed low drag world, many just want to react. You know Problem-Solution.

But the question is, react to what?

And how?

And how do you know that what you just blurt out would actually make a difference?

Most things, with the exception of a few specific career fields, are not usually an emergency, and don’t call for split second decisions. The plane isn’t about to go down and the building isn’t about to blow up. The problem, however, is we have been programmed. Because of modern technological advancements, it has psychologically turned everything immediate. You don’t have to look any further than Amazon Prime or a Google Search engine to understand this. The ability to have spontaneous real-time information and instant-multiple communication modalities, have made what was seemingly ordinary in the past, urgent. Yet as I said before, they’re not urgent. You have time to listen.