“Silence is so accurate. “
“Every word has consequences.
Every silence, too. “
Jean Paul Sartre
Why are we embarrassed by silence?
What comfort do we find in all the noise?
Tuesdays with Morrie
There is certainly something good to be said about silence. Many thigs in fact.
In particular … being comfortable communicating with silence.
This comfort, if we ever truly find it, is borne from a struggle. I say that because I believe many of us … reflecting upon our spoken output … struggle with warring impulses to speak up and shut up.
The whole warring impulses revolves around accuracy.
We rue the inaccuracy of the words we use <words we say>.
We endlessly worry about the potential inaccuracy of what will occur if we are silent <words we do not say>.
To be clear.
I love silence.
Particularly in business <as I have written about before>.
Regardless of business … or Life … to me silence defines accuracy in communication.
It is within the space of silence that lies get opened up and bleed to death … and truth is able to step to the forefront.
It is where the quiet of confidence stifles the screaming of obvious insecurity.
It is where, in business, the best are able to comfortably sit and the ‘not so best’ line up to be the first to speak … regardless of whether it makes any sense or not.
In business we seem to be teaching rushing from one thing to another like organized chickens with our proverbial heads cut off.
That translates into less real listening and a focus on ‘effective communication’ <which kind of implies ‘listen to me’>.
What kind of future leaders do we believe we are developing if we are not teaching them the value of being a good listener.
I tend to believe I am comfortable with silence is because I believe the teller has no responsibility to make the listener believe in the truth.
There is certainly a balance between what you say versus when you are silent.
This thought I am suggesting seems centered on the thought “I believe a speaker has absolutely no responsibility to explain or defend.”
That may seem illogical but I believe at the core of this whole accuracy thing is that each person must take the words you have spoken … and make them their own.
And I believe no one can do that for another.
I imagine a part of what I am discussing is silence after speaking. And here is the courage part – trusting in your words and how they may inspire others to think <and react>.
This may actually be one of the times when I believe I am different than many other people.
I sense most people do not believe the thought I shared.
I sense this because I hear so many people constantly defending and explaining … and … well … using a shitload of words to make their words sink in or bludgeon other people into understanding or believing <I imagine with the intent to make the listener take the words you have spoken … and make them their own – in some way>.
But … in fact … silence can make a listener well … think.
But … in fact … silence also permits the speaker to … well … think.
A double positive.
In fact … it is kind of an eloquent use of time.
I purposefully used eloquence because I believe far too often these days we bludgeon with words, behavior and energy.
Everything seems to revolve around who can shout the loudest or be the first or some bombastic behavior.
Speaking, and silence, is an art.
And I tend to believe we forget this.
“The withheld work of art is the only eloquence left.”
Withholding words is a version of eloquence.
Letting people have time to think is a version of eloquence.
It is just a version of eloquence to understand that thought, or an idea, is crafted, or created, in one’s mind.
And to be a little philosophical … thought, an idea, is art <I say that because sharing an idea you have is the closest us normal schlubs ever experience to what an artist feels like when they share something they have created>.
As a corollary I would point out that people have a tendency to create images they like as they think … not images they don’t like.
Therefore <part 1>.
If silence allows someone to create their own image they have a likelihood to LIKE what they think.
Therefore <part 2>.
This suggests to really listen to someone you have to be interested in the images people may be trying to hide in their mind.
I would imagine, as with everything, silence is about balance.
I say that because silence should be used wisely. Because you cannot remain silent all the time. even in a sparse environment there has to be enough to fill in some key spaces.
Words represent thoughts <or, at least, they are supposed to>.
If you don’t use some words you will end up getting buried in your own thoughts.
“I didn’t know you could get buried in your own silence.”
And this is where the balance occurs … because if you are too silent too often you can get buried in all the things never said.
I say that because silence, when wielded well, creates accuracy.
But only if you point it out <which means you have to speak>.
So maybe it silence is all about deliberately holding silent ‘space and time’ for longer so that it prompts others to go further in thought.
I try and keep the balance simple in my own head … “don’t fill empty space simply because it is empty.”
I try and remind myself that within the empty space … things, not wrought with my own hands … or mouth, will be built.
I try and listen, and see, the things that fill the space before, and after, the empty space.
I try and seek what is found within the silence.
Back in 2010 I wrote this about silence:
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.
Silence. Embrace it.
Silence is not an easy tool to use.
Silence takes courage.
I worry that silence has become a lost art.
I worry that those with the courage to use silence with purposeful intent seeking accuracy & truth are becoming a dying breed.
In the end.
All I can say is that as you look around you and notice the silent, the few who purposefully wield silence as communication, remember … they may be seeing more in the empty space than what is not apparent.
“I was quiet but I wasn’t blind.”