The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Persuasion

March 4, 2020

Leaders influence others by persuasion. They can convince others to follow their vision, to support the cause, and to be a part of the team. Almost always, we try to persuade others with words, often strong or loud words that end with exclamation marks! But sometimes the greatest influence to persuade comes in silence!

Peter instructs wives who have unbelieving husbands, Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (1 Peter 3:1-2).

In this situation, the husband does not agree with the beliefs of the wife. The wife’s desire is to persuade the husband of the truth she knows. We might advise her to construct well-developed arguments about the existence of God and the need for salvation, and to present them boldly. But Peter advises her to be silent! The silence, combined with godly behavior, would win the husband “without words.” Servant leaders learn the power of persuasion with silence.

Silent persuasion reveals respect. Peter encourages the wives to submit “without words.” Loud arguments would show disrespect and drive the husband away. But quietly living out her life and not pushing him to agree, shows her respect for him as a person.

Good leaders show respect to others, especially those with whom they disagree. They show respect for the other, sometimes by simply continuing the relationship without constant reminders of the disagreement. They recognize that respect will open the door to influence.

Servant leaders often show respect by their silence. They allow God time and space to work in the lives of the other person. Sometimes that time and space changes their own position! Servant leaders recognize the power of respect to persuade through silence.

Silent persuasion invites a closer look. “They will see the purity and reverence of your lives…” The silence of the wife would allow the husband to see! Silence invites the husband to turn his head and see what his wife is doing, thinking or expressing without words. Words encourage people to look at our mouth or to look away; silence encourages them to turn and look more closely.

Leaders model the way before they proclaim the way. They allow their lives to encourage followers to take a closer look. Servant leaders influence through silence as they encourage a closer look.

Silent persuasion transforms hearts. The silence of the wife, coupled with consistently good behavior, could “win over” the heart of the husband. The husband expects confrontation and arguments from her. If she argues, he will respond in the same way and likely win the battle! But instead. he finds only silent “purity and reverence.” The silence is unexpected and has tremendous power. In the end, the power of silence breaks his resistance and he accepts the position of his wife.

Servant leaders learn, especially when there is disagreement, that silence has power to persuade. Servant leaders acknowledge that while God can use their words to bring change, He can likewise use their silence to transform the heart of another. Servant leaders sometimes influence through silence and they see God transform hearts.

Certainly, there are many situations in which leaders are called to share their opinions and have healthy, genuine debate on an issue. But there are also times when leaders would do well to take the advice of Peter and lead with silence. Servant leaders cry out to God for the wisdom to know when they should persuade with words, and when silence is the right approach.

Servant leaders learn that silent leadership speaks loudly in persuasion! They move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How do I show respect to those who disagree with me? Is my respect ever expressed in silence? Are there times when my silence would be disrespectful?
  • Does my life encourage people to lean in and look more closely, or to move away from my arguments? What is the result in my leadership?
  • Am I in a difficult relationship now which has strong disagreements? If I practice silence, would it allow God to change the heart of the other person? What might silence also do to my own heart?
  • In what way do the principles of this passage to wives with unbelieving husbands apply to all relationships? In what ways might these verses not apply to others? How can we know when to be silent and when it is right to speak?
  • Is there a way that silence can become a weapon to fight instead of a tool to influence? Or is there a difference between refusing to talk and choosing to be silent?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.

In the next issue, we’ll examine the sound of silent leadership…in self-defense.