He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak. – Ausonius
Talking less has always been a struggle for me. As a child, those close to me constantly chastised me for my need to stir the air with incessant chatter. As I grew older, their comments made me feel as though none of my words were worthy of being heard. Ironically, one of the people who made those comments the most is someone who, to this day, is incapable of sitting in silence with others. That individual must fill the void of silence with the most arbitrary (and oftentimes, annoying) nervous banter. To the point where I would wince with each word.
Talking less can bring you closer to those you love
When my daughter was very small, I was a single mother and worked multiple jobs to support us. Some days, my daily responsibilities left me both emotionally and physically exhausted, and I just wanted to sit in silence. (Two decades later, I still have those days.) My sweet little angel would sit beside me and chatter at a mile-a-minute pace, excitedly telling me about her day—or even what Barney The Dinosaur did to inspire her. Although I loved my alone time with her, and adored hearing her stories, there were some days that I was on overload. Since I knew how I was stung by people’s words when I was a child, I did not want to do the same to her; so instead of telling her to be quiet, I simply said, “Sweetheart, mommy’s ears are tired tonight.”
My vivacious little girl would then turn to me and say, “Okay mommy. We can just sit and ‘nuggle.” And with that, we sat in silence and cuddled on the couch or worked on a coloring book together. Even at a young age, my daughter was not intimidated by talking less.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. – Max Ehrmann
Talking less is how leaders are made
I am certainly guilty of being a talker. I am also guilty of not being the best listener. I recognize those traits in me, and do my best, on a daily basis, to be better balanced in those areas. I was always the person who only half listened, as I waited for my chance to throw in my two cents. From time to time, I still catch myself doing it, but have learned to recognize my anxious inner voice and cast it away.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill
Parents and supervisors are some of the biggest offenders of not recognizing the strength of talking less. I’m sure everyone has either done this, or experienced it. The person asks a question and, if the reply does not occur almost immediately, they begin feeding the answer to the other. Here are a couple examples:
- Parent to child: “Billy, why did you cry when grandpa touched your teddy bear?” Insert momentary pause. “Is it because you thought he hurt Mr. Bear? Or because you don’t like sharing? Is it because grandpa smells funny?”
- Employer to staff: “I’d like to know why no one made contact with our supplier regarding the discrepancy in the order.” Insert five seconds of silence. “Did everyone think someone else was going to do it? Did you think that it was an insignificant loss? Do you just not care about this company’s success?”
In both of those examples, they should have asked the question and then sat silently, rather than feed their audience a selection of multiple-choice answers from which to choose.
A silent mind is a productive and healthy mind
Luminita Saviuc at Purpose Fairy wrote an article about the positive results that come with talking less. She confirms in The Wisdom of Silence: Learning to Talk Less and Say More that we have permission to just breathe. She reminds us that in the wake of our silence, we will not find ourselves in danger, but might actually experience clarity. When our mind is still, we can help our body purge itself of the stress of our day.
Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. – Plato
I want to be a wise woman. I am learning more and more how to be that wise woman.
Fear not the silence around you
As technology takes a stronghold on us, we now replace our silence with the “noise” of turning to our mobile devices. I have witnessed many couples or groups in public, whose devices appear the moment there is a pause in conversation. The only sounds you hear are their fingers tapping on tiny keyboards. Why are we so afraid to be still?
Let’s not misunderstand this focus on talking less though—excited chatter, banter, and conversation have a place in all of our lives.
Talking less does not mean that there is nothing left to say
My husband and I carpool to work each day, and a couple years ago, the silence in the car was almost deafening for me after we had finished exchanging our anecdotes of our workday. I thought, “Have we run out of things to talk about? Do we know everything we know need to know about each other?”
I was panicking as I thought of all the years we talked endlessly about anything and everything while on our path of getting to know one another. Instead of sounding my emotional alarms, I should have been appreciative to simply share that space with him, and realize how comfortable we both are just being together—even in silence.
Although, my genetic circuitry still pushes me to the chatter zone, as I grow, and learn, I do my best to circumvent those urges and let my mind and soul be still.
Featured photo credit: Shh/Amickman via flickr.com