When People Get Quiet

 

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Call it one of the senses, and I’m not sure which one, but there is definitely a sense you get when something is not quite right. This same sense can be applied where you work and I have unfortunately been 100% accurate in predicting something is going on in the office, and usually it is related to either a promotion, a firing or the company being acquired. Some might call this ability having a mild sense of psychic power, but whatever you might call it, my general sense is everyone has this same ability, but might not know how to tap into it. Having this ability can be both helpful and stressful, as it serves almost as a barometer of the pressure being felt in the office. 

There is a saying “the calm before the storm”, and I have seen and felt this more times than I care to admit. Most of the time something good is about to happen, but people are not allowed to talk about what will be happening, so they tend to get quiet, or act more reserved than they normally are. Conversely, when something ominous is about to happen, this same sense of quiet tends to permeate throughout the office almost like a fog. Generally a few people in the office are setting this tone, and the ones who are may not be aware they are doing so. However, there are signs you can pick up on to determine if something different is about to happen, and here are a few of them. 

  • The people who have knowledge about something going to happen whether it is positive or negative will generally start to have less eye contact with you prior to the “event” happening. 
  • People “in-the-know” will have a slightly different demeanor than they typically do (e.g., if they are normally very talkative, they will become less so). 
  • When asked questions which might either be on target or are close to what might be going on, the person who knows what is happening will potentially get fidgety and exhibit signs of being nervous (e.g., their neck turns red, they may start to sweat slightly on their forehead), or they quickly change the subject.
  • The response to your questions which would normally be longer, will be short and almost abrupt. 

If you encounter any of these behaviors occurring with the people who “know something”, try not to pressure them into telling you anything, as they generally are not in a position to do so. However, depending on how well you know them, and what type of relationship you have developed with them in the office, they may give you slight hints about what is going on, and whether it is a positive or negative scenario. People who are in management roles, and who may not have years of experience yet with change management occurring, will be much more transparent and easy to read than those with years of management experience. Of course this is a generalization, but more often than not, newer managers will have a more difficult time not wearing their emotions outwardly. This is not a bad thing, and it is part of what you learn how to deal with and do a better job of not revealing from an emotional or body language perspective. 

Being able to read what is going on and tapping into your intuitive senses allows you to  prepare you for what is inevitably going to happen. I’m not talking about a self fulfilling prophesy, but instead thinking through what your options might be when you have a sense something is happening which might impact you in a good or negative way. It is always far better to be aware than caught off guard when something in the office happens, as being too emotional in most office settings is not generally considered a good thing. Having the ability to control your emotions, and I am not talking about acting like a robot, but instead being composed on the outside even though you might me a hot mess on the inside. Most managers and upper level executives become quite good at masking their inward emotions, but being able to read the emotional cues they are giving off will serve you well in future situations when you will need to be composed and thinking clearly in any situation. 

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

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