“As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.”Benjamin Franklin
In my mind, silence has two meanings: silence of thought and silence of words.
Silence of thought, or more accurately, silence of external thoughts, is good for us. This is the kind of quiet and peace you can find when you are alone in nature or sometimes even at home alone in the stillness of early mornings or late evenings. You still have your own thoughts, but even that can be tuned out with practice. In this environment, our senses are heightened. We can hear the wind swaying the trees. We can watch the water flowing down the stream. We can hear the crunch of the forest beneath our feet.
There are quite a few people out there that can’t stand being alone. Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” It’s easy to ignore that you dislike yourself—or at least dislike aspects of your life—when you are constantly surrounded by other people. But when you are alone, it’s just you, yourself, and the Universe. In a way, this is leaving things unsaid. Not to others, but yourself.
We can’t change anything if we choose to ignore the fact we need to.
Spending alone time with yourself lets you see where the cracks are, and what needs mending. It’s not all bad, mind you. Spending time with yourself also gives you a chance to heighten your senses to who you are and what you want out of work, love, friendship—life.
The second kind of silence is a silence of words. Words left unsaid to people in our lives. Sometimes these unspoken words can be small, like not having the courage to ask if a woman needs a hand when some random guy is harassing them. Or not giving a compliment to a stranger, even though it popped into your mind to do so. Or not voicing your opinion out of fear of embarrassment. All these little silent words tugging at us. No bummers, of course. Nobody likes negative, complain-y, ugly words. It’s one thing to voice your opinion, and another to voice hate.
Sometimes words left unsaid are bigger. I’ve always found it powerful to speak less rather than jabber on and on endlessly. I always thought I was like this until I become friends with someone who is incredible at this. He’s soft-spoken and could be mistaken for being a quiet person, but when he speaks—people listen.
There is an art to saying just enough that needs to be said. Of course, there is a balance too.
Speaking less says more, but not speaking up says nothing.
Said differently, in my experience, miscommunication stems from not saying enough, versus saying too much. Again this isn’t about hurting people. This is about not hurting yourself (and not regretting decisions) by keeping important words inside. We do this to protect the ones we love—we don’t want to hurt their feelings—but by keeping things bottled up we un-intentionally hurt ourselves.
Like anything, it’s all about how we say speak, not what we say.
When in doubt, speak.
Q: Is this hurtful? No.
Q: Would I regret not saying it? Yes. Go for it.
STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1032