Successful Silences: A Practitioner’s Toolkit


  • Roumen Dimitrov Pompeu Fabra University


measuring silence, off-the-record communication, choreography of public attention, engagement as means, strategic silence


In this paper I present ten patterns of successful silence which professional communicators use in their daily work. A silence succeeds if, first, it is mutually recognised as communication and, second, it conveys meaning, which the listener principally interprets the way the speaker has implied. The focus here is on communicative silence, although non-communicative silence is also a common and legitimate technique. I remain as close as possible to the language of the practitioner, which is both functional and rich in proto-theories that wait to be developed. Patterns are tools, not rules. Rules are abstract and universal. Tools are concrete and situational. Patterns depend on the context and objectives of a campaign —they do not work in every situation. One needs to know how to select and apply them. Coded in shortcut titles, some patterns are: know when to shut up; engagement is a means, not an end; no negative publicity first; everything you say is on the record; people follow leaders, not communication; and how to measure silence. This paper “breaks the silence” on behalf of communicators and for the sake of learners. Keywords: strategic silence, engagement as means, choreography of public attention, off-the-record communication, measuring silence.


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