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

Our commentary comes from New York Times best-selling 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, anyone who talks too much gets into trouble. You may offend someone, or hurt their feelings. You may lose your job, or your relationship may break up.

I know, because I’m an extraordinary talker. I also know how hard it is to break a habit.

This is partly because the tendency to overtalk is hardwired into your brain, and you can’t change it. But also, we live in a world that practically compels you talk too much.

Henry Holt & Co

Social media is designed for you to post, share, like and comment. 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 determines the value of people by how many Twitter followers they have.

It was ridiculous. Look at Steve Jobs. He wasn’t on Twitter at all. He was zero Followers What was it worth? 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 orators of all time, but he’s an even better listener. Richard Branson is a billionaire businessman, 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’s famously quiet. No one ever knows what’s going on behind those glasses.

I discovered that, in every aspect of life, talking less pays you off. You may get a promotion, or negotiate a better salary. You will definitely become a better parent and partner.

Best of all, you won’t just improve your life. You will improve the lives of those around you.

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

Read an excerpt: “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World” by Dan Levine

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Story by Arya Shelson. Editor: Chad Corden.

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