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The Quiet Ones Make More Noise

It's not the way you say. It's how you listen.

It's not the way you say. It's how you listen.

You may know someone like this. They appear to be exceptionally confident. They dominate conversations and walk into a room or a meeting and take command of it. You might feel a little intimidated by them. They say things at you and you wonder why you had not thought of that idea yourself and it is so much better than any idea you could possibly have ever conjured up. This person might tell you to do something and so you go and do what they tell you without thinking about it too much.

That’s the way it has been since you were at school. People say things to you and you listen and act upon what you are told. That confident person might have been your teacher, your boss, or a colleague who was always louder than you. But, as you grew older and more experienced, you started to think for yourself. The people who were the loudest often were the ones who took your idea and labeled it as their own. You started to see that actually the loud people, or the exceptionally confident ones were quite often very good at saying things but not so good at thinking about things. They did not have the monopoly on ideas that you thought they had and they needed you more than they would have cared to accept. 

In the armed forces, there are lots of people who are loud and confident. You are trained to lead and to project an air of confidence. But this was quite often a veneer of confidence and you spent a lot of time telling people what to do if you were a platoon commander. But, if you stepped back from the noise, you started to notice something. More often than not, the people who were very influential were the quiet ones who observed and listened before saying anything. All their words were used carefully and minimally. Their confidence was not projected through a one way barrage of information and orders. Their confidence was projected through their quietness and their ability to inspire others and to use the strengths of the team that surrounded them. 

In the business world, advertising agencies have been great at saying things to their client’s customers for years. They have been very effective at sending messages to people and telling them to do things. Buy this washing powder, eat this food, rub this cream in or buy this car to become this sort of person. Some of the world’s most talented people went into advertising and they still do. They are brilliant at saying things. 

Over the last few years, we, as individuals, have realised that we have a voice too. We can write our views up on a blog, comment on other people blogs or views, and we can do things which were once the private domain of the corporations which controlled what we saw, read or consumed. 

This has meant that advertisers are changing their ways. We are not prepared to listen to the message of one advertiser on their product or service. We will check what everyone else thinks about their product or service before we buy it. The loud, confident broadcasts are becoming less and less impressive. Now, the quiet noise of the people tells us whether the advertiser is right about the product they are pushing or not. 

An example of this is a recent story of two developers I know who have built a simple to use tool called ‘ImageSizer.’ These two bright and self-effacing individuals have spent their spare time building ‘ImageSizer’ to help people quickly re-size batches of digital photos and made it available for people to download for free. Quite quickly, it started to appear on lists on the web recommending top tools to download. Downloads went from one hundred in a month to almost a thousand in a week. It kept appearing on lists and the number of downloads increased. Soon, a computer magazine picked it up and asked if it could include ‘ImageSizer‘ in the free CD on the front of its publication which went out to 20,000 subscribers. 

Although the product is free, it is a good lesson in the fact that today people find out about products and services by hearing about them less through the loud noise of traditional advertising and increasingly through a network of people on the web recommending things. Further to the ‘ImageSizer’ story, the developers receive suggestions and requests for improvement to the tool from their users regularly which helps them to keep ImageSizer relevant and useful to what people want from it. 

So, now think back to those people who exude confidence, start to question their substance and find out whether what they are saying is correct from the network. We are in a far more democratic society than we were ten years ago and it is a far better world for it.

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