Silence is golden.

Saying what you mean can get right to the heart of an issue; dispel rumours, convey clarity, evoke emotion. But silence can often deliver a much more revealing, powerful message. It’s a dance, an orchestra, the closest thing the communications industry has to ballet… [pause for effect]

You only have to look as far as recent news to hear it blowing through the pages of the papers that we read.

Read between the lines

It’s hard to ignore the real life version of Space Invaders China and the US have been playing recently. Big white balloons bob into view just off the coast of South Carolina, the US shoots them down before they get too close. 

Admittedly, there have been statements released with each country publishing their version of the truth, but what’s striking is how much more is being communicated outside of this.

On an international level, this has caused embarrassment for the US on a couple of occasions. In the first, a shot fired at one of the balloons missed its target exploding in an unknown location revealing that the US Air Force – even with the billions of dollars it spends on R&D each year – can’t pop a small white balloon on the first go.

China has also inadvertently exposed the US’ culture of hysteria, with the White House mentioning it had ‘heard a lot’ about the rumours that extraterrestrials were responsible for the balloons and had to put a stop to them. The wild imagination of Hollywood is endemic across the country it seems.

The power of ambiguity 

Being intentionally vague might just say everything China needs to say.

If, as the FBI claim, the balloons are for military surveillance, China’s lack of comment on the matter poses more questions than it answers. Does China think it could get away with it or does it just not care about having its Johnny English style espionage exposed? Either way, the hush-hush approach delivers just enough intention to be worrying but enough absurdity to be disregarded.

Walking the walk

Outside of geopolitical he-said-she-said, others have been quietly making noise in their own right. In the music industry, Rhianna announced her pregnancy during this year’s Super Bowl Half-Time Show. With one subtle movement in the opening moments of her performance, the internet was ablaze with people looking for confirmation that the potbelly pop-star was indeed expecting her second child.

Over in the Middle East, it was only the absence of 25-year-old Sara Khadem’s headscarf at a chess tournament and her resulting exile from Iran that caused the country’s authorities to make further statements – yet again – of its view on women’s rights. 

Our ask, therefore, is this: Consider what else you’re saying beyond what you’ve said. Your silence can be scrutinised as much as your speech.