Silence has always terrified me for some reason. Some of my most embarrassing faux pas moments and some of the committments I dreaded resulted from a deep rooted need to fill all silence that appeared in any of my conversations. It was almost like me saying nothing, allowing the sound of silence to take over the conversation for a while, demeaned me, showed my lack of self reliance and opened the floor up to an attack.
I have been trying to change my approach to silence lately as I am slowly discovering its power. It is in the moments of silence that real assertiveness is revealed, not diminished: asking a question and then pausing to hear the answer, while still being fully present with the other is one of the most respectful and vulnerable acts one can put forth. Silence tells our interlocutor “I am allowing you space to interject and I am paying attention to your response” – I have found that many times, it is silence that elicits honesty more than any incredibly persuasive arguments. Knowing when to pause, become silent, associating that with looking the other person in the eye and taking a deep breath in the middle of an important and intense conversation is an art. And like any form of art, it frees and empowers, at the very same time.
I still have to almost physically hold on to myself to be silent and it is still hard to allow it during most of my conversations. The voices inside my head always make it a point to remind me that by being silent a lose something, that by not making another point then and there, I set myself behind. The interesting thing is, my voices have it backwards. For it is only someone who is secure enough in their own arguments and courageous enough to allow such exposure who could do silence in the middle of a heated conversation. And I am amazed every single time to see how much the ones I am talking to are taken aback by my being silent. We are used to everyone talking at the very same time, louder and louder, trying to upstage each other in a race of our own making. When it is in fact the silence, the allowing of space and the real listening that will ever get us anywhere.