Enjoy the silence

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silence-2After reading about the story of John Francis and about monks that observe vows of silence, and seeing about that in the movie Eat Pray Love, I was intrigued and interested in the idea of not speaking. However I realized reading those same stories that it would impose a burden on those trying to communicate with me, and take patience and willingness required to understand signs and hints. It is not necessary.

Looking at a painting recently I was observing how the blank spaces, where you could actually see the blank canvas, devoid of any paint in it, helped form the resulting image. The same way, silence is not just space between ideas, silence itself is part of the communication and there is much that can be conveyed using silence.

I made a little experiment by talking less for a couple of days. Much less. While not talking all the time I could for the first time listen to the voice and internal conversations in my mind. Most of our adult lives we don’t really listen very well. We only listen long enough to determine weather the speaker’s ideas match our own. And when they do not, we stop listening and the mind would rush to construct an argument against what we believe the opposing opinion to be. The same when talking to myself! The mind races with thousands of ideas and little conversations and only when you notice you can silence those as well.

Listen fully

By not talking much I give myself permission to listen more, not to attack other’s ideas even when I don’t agree with them…. or perhaps especially when I don’t agree with them. By listening fully the speaker also feels free to speak fully their idea or position without fear of rebuttal in a way that I could not have imagined.

Not speaking much precludes any argument and makes me listen more. By talking less I make every word I say much more valuable and meaningful. There is also a direct correlation between how much I talk and how much I am willing to listen to.

It was quite disturbing to notice how much chatter kept going on in my head after everyone stopped talking. Being more silent on the outside allowed me to notice how noisy I am on the inside. Drowning down this chatter will probably take a long time and may become one of the most rewarding changes in my life.

Silence is a bullshit filter

My whole life I’ve made a concerted effort to give people a fair shake and understand different points of view because I felt that everyone had something valuable to offer, but it turns out most of what they had to offer was complete bullshit. I was recently struck by the grim realization that I squandered a significant portion of my life listening to everyone’s bullshit. Until this point I regarded my willingness to hear out the opinions of others as a worthwhile quality, and the result is that I probably wasted a few years of my existence being open to people’s half-formed thoughts, asinine suggestions, and pointless, dumbfuck stories.

By not talking garbage I allow myself to not listen to garbage as well.

So from now on, if I keep behaving like I have been doing during the last week or so, you won’t catch me pissing away my finite time on earth listening to grossly uninformed political opinions, nonsense about celebrity couples, how good or bad certain cars are, and why a particular sports team might have a chance this year. You won’t retain my attention by talking about the weather, or how bad allergy season is going to be. I will not longer be talking about the current news that I believe are pointless anyway, or reviews of products I have no intention to have.

More rich patterns of communication

If you just try to answer each question of comment without using words, and then use words when necessary, that change alone is enough to impact radically the way you communicate. It will be a much richer way to talk (or not talk) to everyone. You learn to use your eyes a lot more, you smile a lot more as well, gestures become more varied and sophisticated, and sometimes even simple silence itself becomes a powerful answer.


One thought on “Enjoy the silence

  1. Ed

    Great post. I have also taken this road and am amazed. Especially at work where as a leader i find it makes more sense to listen than talk.

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