The “Gold” in “Silence”

I find that more and more people I talk to these days feel uncomfortable with silence. This happens most often when I’m spending quite a bit of time working with Coworkers on my day shifts and making an effort to talk to students and instructors in the classroom. I have seen this discomfort with communication happen in three different ways:

  • A person has the tendency to interrupt the other person whose trying to speak in order to avoid the conversation from reaching a halt.
  • People try to stay away from conversing with strangers/aquaintances as much as possible, in fear of themselves getting stuck in mid-conversation silences too often.
  • Using your smart phone or some other device to distract yourself from the feeling of awkward pauses.

The two on this list I know I have done is the second and third option. The stress I have seen others get during these moments of silence boggles my mind just as well as it boggles theirs. I think that’s why I always have the tendency to withdraw from people during times when I’m not in a chatty kind of mood. I have this thought bundled up in my head too often, and drown myself with the belief I will forever be that someone who constantly creates awkward silences.

And that brings up my burning question… Is silence no longer golden?

I decided to ask one of my coworkers about how she felt when it came to silence between conversation. She told me she fears it because it feels awkward, and it gives her the temptation to keep rambling on in order to avoid it.

I find it unfortunate that people tend to feel this way when silence can really be described more as an opening for opportunity in a conversation. We live in such a day where people want answers right here, right now, and as soon as possible. In that instance, I think it’s important for us to take a step back from the speed of conversation. Lets consider the reason why silence can still be a golden rule to conversation:

  • It allows you to gather the thoughts in your mind to formulate the things you need to say. From my experience, I’ve gone through quite a few conversations when I didn’t think before I spoke, and it resulted to not really understanding the word structure that came out of my mouth. It’s important to have an idea of what you would like to say, especially during situations that involve a tough question to be answered or a solution to a problem.
  • It allows you to stop and really focus on the person in front of you, and what exactly they’re trying to say. If you are too concerned about the silence that follows, you aren’t putting your entire focus on what the person is trying to say to you. Considering you care about what the person is communicating, it’s important to not interrupt them so they know you’re paying attention.
  • Silence can also be a way of saying maybe it’s time to change the subject. One can’t simply talk about one specific topic till the end of time. It’s the perfect opportunity to construct a new conversation that strikes both of your interests.

It takes a little trial and error to slow down your way of communicating, especially for those who experience a social anxiety. But always keep in mind… some of us may perceive this form of silence as “awkward” but we don’t really need to think of it as such. Instead, try to imagine it more as a gap in the road of conversation that you need to cross and build a new road to an even greater way of communicating.

What are your thoughts about silence?