The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
- teen blogger Taychyka
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
- Winston Churchill
I have an upcoming post on ‘effective communication’ or maybe better said ‘the art of rhetoric.’ But that is one side of the equation in communication. The actual speaking and what to say.
The other side of the equation is silence.
And I wanted to begin my thinking with a 16 year old quote and a Winston Churchill quote. Huh? Yup. Sometimes teens really do get it.
The funny thing is I believe all of us know, especially when we are younger, that there is a time to ‘not talk.’ Then.
School makes “filling space with words” a competitive arena and starts making us believe it is a way of life.
And in the business world this competition for words and ‘speaking your ideas to get credit’ goes to an entirely new level … it’s on steroids.
It takes courage to not speak.
It is often leaving something unsaid that is the most difficult thing to do in conversations and dialogue.
Silence is a funky thing to most of us.
Most young speakers appear to have a deadly fear of silence. And as they proceed into ‘not so young’ their behavior continues and become aggravating non stop talking machines.
Unless someone says “pause and think.”
But. It seems we are becoming a people who if for even a fraction of a second nothing is coming out of their mouth they feel that something is wrong.
The result? Well.
Actually two things:
1. The ever aggravating “uh,” “um,” “eh”, “ah”, “you know” and other useless things that dot the monologue (all barriers to an actual dialogue by the way).
We employ these unnecessary noises seemingly because we dread the “sound of silence.” It’s as if someone has told us that that something must always be coming out of their mouth, at all times, under all conditions, no matter what.
We all know, in fact, that is not true. Even the non stop talking machines understand this (in whatever quiet moments they may have with themselves assuming they aren’t talking to themselves in the mirror). We all know that silence is a natural and necessary part of any good presentation of whatever you are talking about.
2. The wrong thing. It is quite possible we all need a lesson in what saying the wrong thing means versus silence. I often believe we forget that (thanks for reminding us teen blogger).
Saying the wrong thing, especially at the wrong time, kills ideas, kills conversation, kills relationships … it just kills. I just don’t believe we teach this enough. I just don’t believe we think about this enough. And, this may be funny in this post, I just don’t think we speak about this enough. We discuss “silence versus missed opportunity to say the right thing” all the time. “Speak up if you have something to say” is the message we start teaching early on in life. Balance. We need to teach balance.
I try and keep it simple in my own head. “Don’t fill empty space simply because it is empty.”
In a non-stop world, we have become non-stop speakers. For this reason alone, silence is a powerful tool. Think about beginning a presentation with silence. It takes courage. But it gives your audience time to breathe as well. We live in a crazy world where silence is not easy to find. And, frankly, it’s just not that easy to use either.
Silence. Don’t shun silence. Embrace it.
One of the most poetic thoughtful thoughts I can think of with regard to silence comes from lyrical wordsmiths Simon and Garfunkel:
- “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening. No one dared disturb the sound of silence. Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you. My words like silent raindrops, fell and echoed in the wells of silence.”
One last, kind of odd, thought on speaking and silence.
Think about this. This is a legal thing.
Legally you must speak out in order to benefit from your right to remain silent.
So. In a narrowly split decision the Supreme Court recently expanded the Miranda rights limits. The decision reflects that suspects must break their silence and tell police they are going to remain quiet to stop an interrogation (just as I guess they must actually speak out to tell police they want a lawyer).
What this means is you still have the right to remain silent, but if you want questioning to stop you need to invoke it by first speaking. The goal here is not to protect the constitutional right to silence, but to tell the police when questioning must stop.
I am not sure what to do with this information but maybe if you get arrested silence isn’t such a good thing (I think).