Silence has a bad reputation. Think about the frustration people feel when they think they are given the silent treatment. But silence can have many meanings.
Silence can be a way of communicating. Here is what it can say:
1. Go on, I’m listening
Being silent when the other is talking can mean that you are giving them the conversational space to better express themselves. It can mean that you are focusing your attention on their thoughts and feelings and you are not just waiting for them to stop so that you can start talking. This is especially helpful in case of those who are clarifying their thoughts while speaking.
2. Let me think about it
Some people are more reflective and they need time to properly consider an issue from many angles. Introverts in particular are fond of silence, since it gives them the time they need to sort their feelings and thoughts.
3. OK, do your own thing now
Being silent can mean being respectful of the other’s creative process. When somebody else is engaged in concentrating on a difficult task, the last thing they need is some annoying noise messing up their concentration.
4. I’m glad we can share this
Watching a sunset in silence, reading a book next to somebody or quietly listening to music can increase the sense of connection we have with our loves ones. The intimacy built though shared silences can be as wonderful as those built through communication.
5. I don’t want to talk about it
Not every silence has a positive meaning. Sometimes, being silent can indicate the refusal to discuss something that could lead to conflict. There are situations when being silent means you deny that there’s a problem. Or you want to postpone discussing it for when the you feel more courageous.
6. I refuse this situation completely
Another less productive way to use silence is to disengage from a discussion or situation. This kind of silence indicates that you don’t have anything to add to the conversation, that you refuse to participate to it, because you find the conversation pointless or revolting in a way or another. But when this becomes a pattern, it can lead to a breakdown in communication and therefore to an imminent end of the relationship.
Use your silence carefully! Please share this!