Friday, November 13, 2009
I am sitting in my very silent house thinking about the pros and cons of silence. Have you ever had a conversation with someone plugged into their iPod who graciously pulls out one earphone to talk to you?! As much as I love music and cozy chats with friends, I find I truly cherish silence. The absence of vibrations traveling through air creates an opportunity to turn inward. Suddenly I tune into the symphony (or cacophony) that has been running inside of me. Focusing my attention on that internal world always yields something worth exploring.
In relationships, silence often creates discomfort. I recently read a terrific piece on 8 Types of Silence. In it, Eric Klein tries to characterize the hidden possibilities behind silence and makes suggestions for what you can do about it. It is clever and perceptive and useful. And silence isn’t always a problem to be solved. I want to put in a plug for actively creating silence.
Simply put: TAKE TIME TO BE SILENT
So really that is it—the request, the experiment I really think you should try.
Try this: In a meeting, as you get ready to launch into an agenda item, tell people you will give them 2 minutes of silence to collect their thoughts and reflect on the issue at hand.
Or this: When you are at an impasse or in a heated moment in a conversation or meeting, create a silent time-out for people to collect their thoughts.
Or even this: rather than setting up a meeting to have tea or coffee in a loud and crowded place, schedule a walk in a park or through a museum—allow for comfortable silences to take in your surroundings.
And finally this: As you move from one thing in your calendar to the next, stop for 60 seconds of silence. Quiet your surroundings and just tune in to whatever is there.
A note about balance:
Even though most people would hear only noise and confusion, as a former teacher, I know well the joy of a class of 30 students talking with each other busy at a task that engages them. Talking and sometime even noise can be really valuable. I just think the balance has tipped too far today and it is harder to be silent. For most us adults—we seem to need permission.
So, guess what? Permission granted!