I have been accused of:
- Being Cold
- Being Cruel
- Shutting Others Out
- Etc., etc., etc.
I know, right? Can you imagine anyone accusing me of these things? 😉
Now it is true that, on occasion, I have done/been each of those. More recently though, these are side effects, if you will, of me practicing Judicious Silence*.
Our modern culture seeks to fill each and every moment of silence with something. Anything at all really because heaven forbid that any of us would actually have time to contemplate or feel anything before responding.
Somewhere along the way, we have lost the true “art” of dialogue, conversation and communication. For me, Judicious Silence is indeed communication. Silence, in and of itself, is a valid response. Silence speaks volumes.
People will say to me, “you didn’t respond”. Well, actually yes I did. My silence was my response.
This concept is so important for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People because we cannot resolve everyone else’s issues and dammit, we do try to! Most of the time we struggle with just resolving our own issues. We can easily become overwhelmed if we believe that we must proactively respond to everything that happens in our daily lives. Think of it this way:
Here in 2018, there are multiple avenues of communication – text messages, emails, phone calls/voicemails, Facebook messages, letters, face to face meetings, Skype/Zoom, etc. I’m sure there are more but to tell the truth, I’m exhausted from just contemplating all of it. This isn’t a complaint. It’s simply the level of demand on our time and our energies living in this modern world.
(I once counted how many emails, texts and phone calls I was involved with during one week. I stopped counting when I reached 500. Oh my God!!)
I’m not talking about “unplugging” or anything like that although I highly recommend unplugging on a regular basis. I’m talking about purposefully not responding selectively. I’m talking about using Judicious Silence as your response.
I learned elements of this concept from my father way before email and cell phones. I have vivid memories of my father coming home after work, changing his clothes and sitting down with the afternoon paper. Our telephone was on a table right beside his favorite chair. If the phone rang while he was reading the paper, he simply ignored it.
After the ringing stopped, he would look at me and say, “Sister, the telephone is here for my convenience. I pay the bill. I decide when to answer and when not to answer.” (Usually this was while my mother was screaming at him for not answering the phone.)
Silence is simply another form of responding. On its own, silence is neither cruel nor cold. Silence isn’t a comment on whether or not you value another person. Your silence is simply your response. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Do you rush to respond to texts or emails that do not seek a response? Seriously? Do you?
Now I’m not saying be a jerk about this. I’m saying it’s time to raise the quality of the communication in your life. I’ll give you two examples from my own life:
Example #1: I sometimes get texts from acquaintances who call me, don’t get an answer, don’t leave a message then they immediately text, “Call me“.
(I will note here that these types of texts are from acquaintances who are not my relatives nor a man with whom I am in an intimate relationship nor the barn owner where I board my horse nor my “ride or die” BFFs, etc. Those folks all know better.)
The implied message is that I should drop everything I’m doing and be available immediately to communicate with that person, and that whatever it is that they want to discuss with me is more important than whatever it is that I am doing.
No matter, in that moment, whether I am at work at a job that keeps a roof over my head & food on my table or whether I am listening to beautiful music or whether I am relaxing with my friends while riding my horse. (Here we are back to the lesson from my Dad: I pay for my cell phone. I will respond when it is convenient for me to do so.)
In my world, that’s just plain rude. I don’t respond to rude.
Silence is always an appropriate response to rude behavior. Rude behavior is very low quality communication.
Example #2: Someone I know was recently hell bent on communicating with me. The situation was complicated. Emotions ran pretty high on both sides. For several days, he sent texts and emails. I was silent on purpose.
What happened out of my Judicious Silence is that he made some courageous, radical, life-altering decisions. The decisions were his to make. Not mine.
My silence was my gift to him. I wish I could take credit for how things turned out, but I can’t. I am so proud of him for choosing the path that led him to express his integrity and courage. I know that it has been painful for him.
All I know is that I did what felt right to me. And in following my intuition to be silent in response to his communications, his path led to him making some different decisions in his life.
When you begin to pay attention to the quality of communication in your life and to your intuition as to whether to respond or be silent, using silence judiciously makes sense.
Let others rail against your silence. Let them throw their little temper trantrums about how you aren’t responding when they believe you should. And don’t feel guilty about it either. You have the privilege of choosing whether or not to respond.
Don’t show up for every argument or dramatic performance others try to pull you into. Take your time. When you begin to feel your way through life, it flows so much more easily and wonderfully.
*Judicious Silence is NOT the same as the Silent Treatment. Quite frankly, the Silent Treatment is childish, unproductive and rude. If you have a problem or an issue in an important relationship in your life, deal with it or request some time to feel your way through it. Ask for the time. Then come back and resolve the issue as best you can. Don’t just shut down or use silence as a way to manipulate others. That type of behavior is not what I’m talking about here.