This is a blog feature from Meridith from pondertheirrelevant.com
Ken has very graciously asked me to share a post for his Let’s Talk series. I admit that at first I had a bit of trouble settling on a topic, but then in listening to the silence I became inspired by it. One of the things that has been on my mind quite a bit lately is the “virtues of silence” or rather, not speaking just to hear yourself speak. So many of us these days are so uncomfortable with the idea of quiet – perhaps not surprising in a world overtaken by techy gadgets that provide a constant overload of noise. We’ve all heard the phrase “silence is golden,” but it’s taken me many years to see the wisdom behind the adage. It may be natural to most people to want to fill the silence, but there are definite virtues of listening to it instead. After all, silent and listen are spelled with the same letters…
Liability. Without a doubt, our rush to speak and be heard often lands us in more trouble than we initially started. It’s not always beneficial to be the first one to speak – in fact, often the second speaker gains the upper hand. He has heard his opponent’s arguments and can therefore tailor his response accordingly. In other words, he doesn’t give himself away unwittingly. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, as there always are. But the true art is in learning to balance your silence and your speech to obtain the fairest outcome.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Learning. “If you don’t listen, how will you ever learn?” I had a high school teacher who was particularly fond of that saying. I always – mentally – replied “you read of course!” I’ve learned since then that the world has lessons to teach you that cannot be understood by reading a book. You have to experience them with all of your senses, including your ears. Listening to the words of others can open up whole new worlds and is a free gift for those willing to accept it.
Open your mouth only if what you’re about to say is more beautiful than silence.
Love. Listening to the stories of others – truly listening, not just half-heartedly paying attention while forming your own response – automatically shifts your perspective. You begin to understand that person on a different level, complete with all the details you might have otherwise missed. It can also be a precious gift to someone having a bad time. And, hopefully, it will be a gift that they too will pass on. Likewise, learning to listen can also alert you to another’s silence. Sometimes silence speaks volumes. The more familiar you are with another person, the better you become at listening to their silence as well as their words.
Life. Listening to instructions, questions, answers, etc.. can often answer any unknowns you may have about a situation. It can clear your path, save valuable time, and even give you an advantage in a competitive situation. We all like to think we either know what we’re doing or how to figure it out on our own, but let’s face it – we aren’t teenagers anymore! At a certain point, you have to give yourself permission to take the easier route. Listening to yourself can also give you the insight you need to make positive changes in your life. That inner voice often knows what’s best for us well before we start listening to it.
In the silence of the heart, God speaks. Mother Theresa
Peace. When we’re angry, lashing out is generally our gut reaction. But speaking out in anger or frustration usually only makes things worse. Keeping your emotions bottled up isn’t the answer either, but taking a time out – remaining silent for just a few extra moments – can give you time to reassess the potential impact of your words and actions. Ask yourself whether the potential satisfaction is worth the long term consequences? Words can be forgiven, but never unspoken. Listening and truly taking in what the other person is saying may also give you insight into the feelings of the other person. Insight and understanding are often the quickest way to a peaceful resolution. And, honestly, for those people with whom there simply is no reasoning, silence can also be the most infuriating response.
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)