Although using our voice may have a tremendous impact on everyone around us, not using our voice can also have the same, or even more influence, on our situation and interactions with others. Our mouths are sometimes too quick to respond, not always connecting with our mind first, and we get ourselves in trouble by saying things prematurely, or outright saying something we cannot take back.
As I am getting older, I am realizing that silence is important, and has become very useful for me when I need time to process information. Life has this sneaky way of teaching us that we have to respond to something immediately, like it is an emergency. Someone says something to us that we do not like, we should reply immediately. We receive an email and we need to respond with urgency because we didn’t like the tone that the sender is using. There is conflict in one of our relationships, and we need to address it now. Well, when we jump in and react to situations like this without processing the best response we could provide, we are likely to cause more harm than good.
We have to unlearn this “immediate response” myth and move into taking some time to think before we speak, and learn to be comfortable with silence.
I grew up in a noisy house, like I am sure many of you did as well. As the oldest of six children, it was a rare event to have a silent home. Kids were playing, people were coming over, animals were running around, the phone was ringing, and we were always talking. I remember going into a closet just to sit down and read a book. I really liked silence back then and knew that there was a piece of me that really needed it.
Silence can be a very important tool to help calm our minds and to help us process information. Have you ever tried to talk about something and think about it at the exact same time? Not talking through something with someone and getting advice, I am referring to the physical act of talking and thinking at the same time. It is almost impossible to do. In fact, when we do this, we are often called out on it right away, because the person we are talking to witnesses our departure from the conversation, as if we left into a daydream during the communication. Or, when we are trying to think and talk at the same time, we are so busy preparing our next comment that we cannot accurately hear what is being said to us. I know you have experienced times when you completely missed something said to you, and asked them to repeat it, because your mind was somewhere else. These are all examples where silence can really be useful to us, and in our interactions with others.
Silence can help us to calm a busy thought life.
Silence can also help us process information. We receive so much content everyday, that we really should start to do some processing before we just act on any of it. We do not need to offer an immediate response to every offense or dislike that comes our way, and sometimes we do not even need to respond at all, using silence to show our dissatisfaction. Talking can sometimes completely stop our rational thinking before we can even sort anything out, leaving us to assume and misjudge events and people around us. When we get too busy trying to communicate every thought in our mind, we interrupt the opportunity to sort out a plan of action, and compare the information we have with our goals and needs.
Sometimes people need to hear our silence as well. This is most useful when people are expecting a response from you, or expecting you to respond in a certain way. If we used silence instead of anger, we would save a lot of stress and high blood pressure simply by practicing self-discipline instead of being quick to cuss someone out or walk out the door. As adults, we should want to avoid responding in angry ways unless it is absolutely necessary. If you are going off on someone everyday then you are responding in anger too frequently and should begin to assess what assistance you may need to support you.
Anger = Danger
When I am not speaking, and have retreated into my silent zone, those who know me know that something is up. They may not know what, or even ask, but they know I am processing. They know that I am deliberating about something, overly concerned about something, tired, or maybe overwhelmed (yes, I feel these things too-just because I write about positive thinking doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out). Silence is my space in-between the noise. It helps me to recalibrate and to determine my next move. There are also times that silence helps me to make my point. See, sometimes we use so many words with those around us, that they don’t hear us anymore, so there is nothing left to say or use to convince them of our sincerity. Going silent can be the final resort to help others learn that our words mean something, and now we are lining up our actions with our words. In most cases, people do not like this type of silence, and refer to it as the “silent treatment”. Well, define it as you like, but it can be an effective form of communication if used properly and without negative intent.
SO, what does silence look like?
- It is the action of silencing a form of communication: this may be verbal, physical, emotional, digital, etc. Any form or all forms, it all depends on the situation.
- It is a time for you to gather your thoughts and emotions before taking any action. Remember that thoughts + emotions = actions, so you want to be sure that these are all adding up in a positive way before taking the next step.
- It is a time for you to be with yourself. Listen to some music, watch a movie, take a walk, take a nap, read a book, write, or whatever activity that calms you. Do something that allows you the opportunity to be quiet and reserved. Personally, I like to use a coloring book. There is something soothing about coloring.
- It is not a weapon. Silence is not a “get back at em” tool. If you are using silence in a negative way, then it is not benefiting anyone. And you will know that I mean by that if you do it under this pretense.
Silence may be healing. Silence may be motivating. Silence may be rejuvenating. Silence may be restorative. Silence provides time for reflection. Some silence is necessary in our lives.
If you take away nothing else from this article, remember that your silence is a form of communication too, and is a tool that you can use for many aspects of your life. Silence speaks volumes.