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Don't Speak! The Power Of Silence In Business

For Melissa Ben-Ishay of Baked By Melissa's mini-cupcake creations, sometimes saying less does a lot more. That's a lesson she learned the hard way—after a breakup with a high-school boyfriend and a failed final exam.

Breaking up really is hard to do. But it can lead to breakthroughs, too.

Consider the case of Baked by Melissa president and CPO, Melissa Ben-Ishay. After failing a final exam in her senior year of high school, Ben-Ishay learned a valuable lesson. The test happened after her boyfriend had broken up with her, and the distress damaged her performance on the exam. That's when Ben-Ishay's teacher pulled her aside. He told her that because she was letting her emotions get the better of her, Ben-Ishay's work was suffering.

Melissa Ben-Ishay

Years later, the incident serves as a reminder during stressful situations. "I think I could apply not letting my emotions getting the best of me to at least one thing a day," she says. "You just have to keep yourself cool and respond professionally."

Five years after leaving a job in corporate advertising and opening the family-run boutique bake shop known for those tiny, delicious, well-protected cupcakes, Ben-Ishay is going strong (there are now 11 shop locations in New York and New Jersey), in part by going more quietly. Sometimes, it seems, saying less does more.

"Stay silent, don’t say anything, and speak when you’re ready. Silence is powerful."

Bottom Line: Silence is a powerful tool when it comes to business relationships

[Video produced by Shalini Sharma; Camera & Edit by Tony Ditata]

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  • Molly Maloof

    Clearly, silence is a valuable tool. But, not because it helps us hide emotions. The idea of hiding emotions to save face is such a masculine message. Furthermore, this does not acknowledge the importance of experiencing the spectrum of human emotion. Stressful life experiences should not be forcefully diminished and held in to save face. Suffering can affect your work. Pretending that it isn't happening and suppressing emotions will also hurt your work; albeit at a later time when your pent-up emotions finds their way out of your body in the form of organic or psychosomatic pathology.  D.H. Lawrence once said, “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.”

  • Jamie-Lynn Despres-Silva

    Um...I disagree. I had my first job out of college in Boston as an Art Director at a very small firm. It was run by a typical Mad Man that banked his money after one successful campaign and went solo. One day I was in his office just talking shop (there were only 3 people at the agency including myself), when he shocked me by saying "You'll never make it in this industry. You are way too full of emotion." I quit that day and have enjoyed a very successful and fulfilling career. My current job as a creative leader in a very esteemed group of innovators, designers, and technologists is sort of surreal. And my boss has never mistaken my passion for emotion. He celebrates it, in fact.

    The Mad Man still sits in that same office and the terrible Flash site I pieced together by keeping my nose in a 700 page book is still up. Representing his agency that apparently hasn't had any updated work since a decade ago.

    I'm glad I spoke up.