Enlightened Conflict

things people don’t say

March 20th, 2015

easy hard said

“I want to write a novel about Silence,” he said; “the things people don’t say.”


Virginia Woolf


“I don’t broadcast every high & I don’t hide every low.

I’m trying to live.

I’m not trying to convince the world I have life.”




“Her eyes were rimmed with long nights and things she wishes she had said.”


Flowers In Bone Cages


“Humans are easy to read, because what they’re not saying speaks volumes.”


Joel T. McGrath









words know what to say

This is not about things ‘not said’ … that would be about regrets and missed moments and shit like that … this is about selective silence.



When we select, or elect, to be silent … and the choice, and choices, we make with regard to ‘silent.’



In general I think we respect people of few words. We think of them as thoughtful and good listeners.







When I enjoy the company of those who do not say much … I wonder what battle is going on inside their heads.



And, no, not the battle to keep from speaking <those are different type of people>.



This is the battle of thoughts.



The battle that rages between all the words spoken and those not spoken … clashing to create a myriad of thoughts.




This is all about the words you finally debate in your mind on whether they are worth sharing or simply meant to be shelved somewhere in your mind or even discarded as junk.




This is all about the words which scream at the top of their lungs… but are not heard except in the head.




This is all about the words you smother because … well … some words are not meant to be spoken.



“Some of the greatest battles will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul.”


Erza Taft Benson

 start somewhere words


The mind can be a wonderful, and terrible, place. Within the best minds resides a tug of war where even words themselves stand at each end staring at each other pulling as hard as they can.



Use this word.




Use THIS word.



And while those of us looking on who cannot see the battle inside sit & wait … we often think of the moment as a deliberate use of silent ‘space and time.’


Deliberately using silence to prompt those of us around to go further in thought.



Silly silly us.


Inside the silent resides the war.



I imagine at the essence of what I am discussing is my belief most people are not flippant with regard to how they use their words <I say this despite the fact we watch blathering mouths scattering words like confetti around a room>.



I do tend to believe most people speak with Salvatore Quasimodo in mind:




In my voice

there is at least a sign

of living geometry

the words of life

I have never understood



What make the battle more difficult is … well … the world around us.


It sometimes seems like the world is structurally hostile to nuance.



Subtlety doesn’t seem to be very effective these days.


The internet amplifies and facilitates a sense that we should think the worst of people <even ones we have never met> and to ignore any facts or context that may potentially eliminate the doubt or uncertainty.



Truth always seems just out of reach and yet being called a liar always seems close at hand.



People aren’t, in general, stupid.



Everyone knows how it works.



Refusing to speak means avoiding the fact that as soon as the words are spoken they begin winging their way across social media … where they inevitably seem to end up mutating into something simplistic and inflammatory therefore overshadowing not only anything else you may say … but also what you may have really said <or meant to say>.



words there are noThis all leads to self-censorship and calculated blandness.



This all leads to the ‘should I speak’ battle inside the head raging even longer … where neither side wins. It remains a stalemate … and only silence wins.




“… had their ideology combed over, examined, misinterpreted, rewritten and kicked to death a hundred times.

Talk about breaking a butterfly on a wheel.”


Steven Wells




What happens when people become fearful of saying anything that might be misconstrued is that they … well … remain silent <when they SHOULD say something>.


And while it would be easy for me to say that the words you stop yourself from saying are the ones that will haunt you the longest … I also think most people really know this.



What is more difficult for us to maybe grasp is that the words they <other people> stop themselves from saying are actually the ones that will haunt us the longest.





I feel relatively confident suggesting that in today’s world the battle inside the head for what to say versus what not to say most often ends up in a place where silence wins because … well … that is why there seem to be so many more writers in today’s world.

And I mean writers as in diaries, blogs, tumblr, pinterest, any form of a journal or scribblings or words that capture what you may want to say … just not verbally out loud.


Words can battle on the page.


Words seem quieter on paper.


Words seem like they may go unnoticed <which a part of us actually wants>.




“I am much better on paper.”


Jared M.


right words some day simple





The best minds are very careful in what they say and do not say.



The best minds have some of the greatest battles <we will never see>.



Let’s be sure the best minds don’t let silence win those battles.

accuracy of silence

February 4th, 2015



lie in silence sand 2

“Silence is so accurate. “


Mark Rothko


“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 things 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.



To me?



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>.



< http://brucemctague.com/silence-speak >




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.


quiet confidence


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.

<source: me>




noise silence




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.”

letters to myself envelopeDon DeLillo




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.


truth speak







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.



More importantly?



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.”




Jandy Nelson






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.

silence is better

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 silence, or remaining selectively quiet, is often confused with ‘lack of involvement’ … or worse … ‘lack of interest.silence words nothing



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.”




Enlightened Conflict