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....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning


  • David

Adolf Hitler – Power of Silence

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

My another learning from "The Articulate Executive - Learn to Look, Act, and Sound Like a Leader" by Granville Toogood. - it is about Adolf Hitler, who is the founder and leader of the Nazi Party, also a major figure in the modern history. Granville wrote about Hitler's first speech to the German Bundestag in 1933:

"... The new chancellor stands in silence for several minutes in front of an expectant crowd. He has no lecturn, just a few notes on a low table on his side. Long after you would have expected him to say something, he is still standing there, his hands folded in front of him, surveying the crowd in the wordless, speechless, silent chamber. Minute after minute passes, and still he says nothing. The sense of anticipation builds. There's a muffled cough. More silence. Why isn't he speaking? Now the nervous energy in the room is so supercharged, the air itself seems ready to explode. Only then does Hitler finally open his mouth and begin to speak - slowly, deliberately, looking hard at the audience, pausing for emphasis. Listeners are devouring every word...."

The Power of Silence. Not only as an opening, but also as pauses during your delivery. Silence is so powerful to draw attention. Human being hate emptiness when they are with the others. For this reason, you would find a topic to talk about when you meet your colleague in an empty life (unless you really hate him / her). Silence is odd and thus raises attention. I always tell the learners in the training skills class, 'Learners in your class may sleep when you talk. But no one will when you stop talking.'

I once encountered a management course facilitator from Indonesia who masters silence very well. In fact, he simply does not speak much. In my memory, his mouth was closed most of the time during the 5-day program. He asked a question to the learners and then he will shut up.... for a long time. If no one really responds for a long while, he may repeat the question again. He then shut up and even sit down till someone responds. He masters silence to make learners think, express and then generate discussion among themselves.

Backtrack a bit to Hitler. Putting aside his own questionable ambition, he is widely recognized as a great speaker. Google 'hitler speech skills', and you will find more than 90,000 hits. I have found 2 video clips of his speech for your reference here.

The first one is one of his speeches in 1933. Just 55 secs. I am not sure whether it is the one Granville mentioned. But it looks like the case as the stage setup is similar as Granville described. But anyway, it is interesting to watch his gesture and posture!

The another one below is a funny version which collects Hitler's various speeches. Just 01:57. Enjoy:

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