“STFU” author Dan Lyons on his call to talk less, listen more

Our commentary is from New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons, whose new book, “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World” (Henry Holt), is a call to talk less, and listen more …

Sooner or later, every person who talks too much, talks their way into trouble. You might offend someone, or hurt their feelings. You might lose your job, or wreck a relationship.

I know, because I’m an inveterate overtalker. I also know how hard it is to break the habit.

That’s partly because the propensity to overtalk is wired into your brain, and you can’t change that. But also, we live in a world that practically forces you to talk too much.

Henry Holt and Co.

Social media is designed to get you posting, sharing, liking, and commenting. And we have somehow come to believe that success is measured by your ability to attract attention. The founder of a tech company once told me that he determined the value of people by how many Twitter followers they had.

That was ridiculous. Look at Steve Jobs. He wasn’t on Twitter at all. He had zero followers. What was his value? Zero?

In fact, most powerful and successful people talk less than other people, and they listen more. They speak with intention. And they understand the power of silence.

Barack Obama is one of the greatest speakers of all time, but he’s an even better listener. Richard Branson is a billionaire entrepreneur, and a big show-off in public, but in meetings he mostly takes notes. Anna Wintour is one of the most powerful people in media and fashion, and she is famously quiet. Nobody ever knows what’s going on behind those sunglasses.

I discovered that, in pretty much every aspect of life, talking less gives you an advantage. You might get a promotion, or negotiate a better salary. You’ll almost certainly be a better parent and partner.

The best thing is that you won’t just improve your own life; you’ll improve the lives of the people around you.

There are thousands of books and classes that teach you how to be a better speaker. What we really need to learn is how to shut up.

READ AN EXCERPT: “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World” by Dan Lyons

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Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: Chad Cardin. 

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