The Power of Silence

The author says that sometimes the best course of action in communicating is to say nothing.

Musicians will tell you it’s not the notes that make the song; it’s the silence between the notes. I think we can find an important parallel in speech.

Case in point: Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest public speaker of the Twentieth Century, received the biggest break of his political life by saying nothing.

Mired in disgrace and no longer able to lead his country, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain summoned two of his top advisors – the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, and Churchill, Lord of the Admiralty – hoping to recommend one of these men to the King as his successor.

With Halifax the more likely choice – the Foreign Secretary, a member of the House of Lords and a friend of the King’s – Chamberlain simply asked Churchill if he could think of any reason not to recommend Halifax. Churchill remained silent.

Churchill later wrote that this silence must have been so long and uncomfortable that, eventually, Halifax started speaking… and making the case for Churchill!

Halifax went on and on explaining that he would have a hard time handling the position of Prime Minister and prosecuting the war, as a peer, from the House of Lords, and that Churchill would be a better choice. Halifax simply could not handle the silence, and talked himself out of the top post in the nation to counter it. During the entire meeting, Churchill, among the most articulate and eloquent men in the world, never spoke a word. And the next day he became the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Sometimes, the best course of action is to say nothing.

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.