Say Less for Success » Mind Tools Blog

Say Less for Success

December 22, 2014

bob_tobin_250x250Ask Dr Bob Tobin where he lives and he’ll tell you “heaven.” That’s Japan, to you and me.

Tobin moved there from California, where he had what looked like a great life – a house by the beach, a good consulting practice, a BMW – but which, in reality, wasn’t so great. “I didn’t really know how to work,” Tobin reflects, in our Expert Interview podcast. “I had a good education, I had a good job, but I had trouble getting along with people. I had trouble figuring out what it was that I really wanted.”

So far, so familiar. How many of us feel like we might be missing out on our perfect life? What’s interesting about Tobin’s story is that – apart from moving from one country to another – the changes he made were not huge… But the impact was.

That’s why he wrote “What Do You Want to Create Today?” an eclectic collection of personal tips that worked for him. “People would say to me, ‘Where’s your book, where’s your book?’ and I really wanted to share with other people. I want other people to have the same kind of happiness – or their own kind of happiness,” he says.

One small change that packs a powerful punch is to embrace silence more. This is central to Tobin’s tip about “reading the air,” which can be summarized as: look, listen and, above all, don’t talk. “People are in such a hurry to say something,” Tobin observes. “They want to get their point across. But what’s the point of getting your point across if people are not ready to listen?” It’s much better, he says, to read the air before talking – to “understand the invisible… It’s really seeing people’s reaction to something that you say. It’s knowing when the best time might be to ask the boss for a raise. It’s about understanding people and reading the non-verbals.”

Tobin gives us an example from his own experience: “I was teaching communications at a university and the boss wasn’t very good at communication. It was those days when everybody had a small office with a telephone, and I didn’t read the air very well. Whenever I wanted to talk with him, he never would talk to me face-to-face. He always would go back into his office and call me, and then we’d talk on the phone,” Tobin recalls.

“If I’d really read the air, I would have just started calling him, rather than try to engage him face-to-face. So that was a mistake that I made. I think when you ask for a raise, when you have a performance appraisal, when you’re going to speak up at a meeting, you really need to read the air. You need to ask yourself, ‘Is now the right time to say this?'”

In other words, take a moment to reflect. This point comes up again in Tobin’s advice to “get rid of the jerks.” Spending time with negative people can be destructive on many levels. Instead, we should surround ourselves with the “best people,” he says. In this audio clip from our Expert Interview, he explains what he means by this.

Listen to the full interview ¦ Install Flash Player.

Did you hear the silence in his last point? If you can create a little bit of peace and quiet, you can begin to see who you really want to have around you – and those people may be attracted to you, too, because you’re not surrounded by a lot of bustle and noise.

Dr Bob Tobin found “heaven” in Japan, but he’s the first to admit that it could have been anywhere. After all, you can take a moment to be quiet and reflect wherever you happen to be, and you never know what a difference that can make.

Question: How do you make space for quiet in your life? Share your piece of heaven here.


3 thoughts on “Say Less for Success

  1. Maryam wrote:

    I have been making a collage every day for at least the last two months. That is the first task of my day while I’m drinking my tea and I don’t check my phone or focus on anything else until I have finished it. This routine has helped me create a quiet time for myself and build a structure for my day.

    1. Sarah Harvey wrote:

      What a great idea Maryam,

      Thanks for sharing.

      Mind Tools Coach

  2. Bree wrote:

    I’m still learning to ‘make space for quiet’ in my life and I’m finding it in small ways. I used to think that quiet time had to be a big chunk of time however now I take it in small chunks. For example, while I am walking somewhere I bring my attention to my breathing and my stride or while on a bus/train I focus on my breath and with each breath in I am becoming more and more grounded, centered and quiet.

    For me, I create space by focusing on my breath.

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