Silence

by breeve 6. April 2013 04:28

No one was more astonished at George Washington’s silence as President of the Constitutional Convention than John Adams. While Washington lead America to independence through decisiveness, now he was leading America to greatness through silence. All during the convention, few said less.

Although Adams and Washington both believed in a strong central government, the way they expressed their opinions couldn’t have been more different. Adams preferred an aggressive style often alienating colleagues while Washington embraced a humble manner. If Adams drove people from the table, Washington drove them to it.

But more astonishing than his silence was its effectiveness. During the heated discussions on the floor, Washington sat from his elevated chair withholding opinion. When many struggled with the powers of the President being proposed, a simple glanced upward reminded them of its importance.

If Washington taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have to talk to get your way. Washington knew better than most that smart people have to come to their own decisions. Bickering, interrupting, and insulting doesn’t convince anyone. Sometimes simple silence is all that is needed.

A few years into my career I had a meeting with the VP of Engineering. The meeting was to go over my API. I answered questions quickly and confidently. My eagerness caught up with me, however, when I was told to shut up by the VP. I was more shocked than anything.

Days after the meeting my manager came over to talk. I was taught a valuable lesson that day. He taught me that everyone must come to their own decision about whether the API was the right thing. Questions about it were not attacks on my intelligence but rather ways for them to understand if I had gone about it the right way.  I had to let others come to that conclusion themselves. Like Washington, sometimes that means being quiet.

Even John Adams came to realize the importance of letting others come to their own conclusions. When the Continental Congress was wrestling with issuing the Declaration of Independence, one of Adam’s constituents wrote him asking what was taking so long. Adam's response showed his growing maturity.

Some people must have time to look around them, before, behind, on the right hand, and on the left, and then to think, and after all this to resolve. Others see at one intuitive glance into the past and future, and judge with precision at once. But remember you can’t make thirteen clocks strike precisely alike at the same time.

Whatever Adam’s thoughts on the delay of the Declaration were, he had to wait. Too often I see mostly inexperienced developers grow impatient over what they see as a no brainer technical decision. To them the solution is as obvious as becoming independent from Britain. Often this impatience is shown during meetings with frequent interruptions, rude comments , or eye rolling. Worse than the behavior is its effect on their ability to convince others. They don’t know what Adams and Washington know.

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About Me

I am a Principal Engineer with 13 years experience developing and releasing software products. I started developing in C/C++ then moved into .NET and C# and have tech lead multiple projects. I have developed products in Windows Forms, ASP.NET/MVC, Silverlight, and WPF. I currently reside in Austin, Texas.

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Pickaxe - An easy to use web page scraper. If you know a little SQL and how basic CSS selectors work, no web scraping product will be easier to use.

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A language for querying PGATour golf strokes.

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