Silence is one of the great arts of conversation

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.Cicero

Is he actually listening? Is his mind silent and his focus on understanding? Or is he simply nodding his head while rehearsing his rebuttal?

What does that mean?
To me, it basically says “Shut up already!” We know that you can’t have a conversation with both (or all) of the people talking at the same time. So somehow we have to take turns. There are some social conventions that help with this turn taking, but it doesn’t always work as well as we might hope.

Silence, I believe, is not just for the mouth. I believe that the silence of which the quote speaks is also for the mind. One must quiet the mind if one is to actually listen and understand. How often do people spend their ‘quiet’ time thinking of what they will say next instead of actually listening?

Why is silence golden (I mean important)?  
When we are truly silent, in both our mouth and our mind, we can hear what is being said and listen carefully. If we are only silent with our mouth, but our brain is busy, we cannot devote the proper attention to what is being said. Yes, you can hear what is being said, but are you truly listening and understanding?

Until you can silence the argumentative side of your mind and listen with the compassionate side of your brain, you won’t be having a true conversation, will you? I would propose that all you can have in that situation is meaningless banter or an argument, not a conversation. Would you agree?

Where can I apply this in my life?
I can’t count how many times I was silent of mouth but not of mind, busily trying to construct the perfect counter to what the other person started saying, and in the process, missing the whole rest of the conversation. This tendency, as you might guess, lost me more arguments than it won, as I never really understood the problem.

When I am truly trying to understand someone, I try to completely silence my mind, listen without judgement and without planning a counter argument. When the other person is done (or my short term memory is approaching full), I will pause briefly to frame my thoughts and then state what I thought I heard them say. In this manner I can be fairly sure I understand what they are attempting to convey.

Once they have said all they want to say and I’ve repeated back what I heard (and been corrected where I mis-heard or misunderstood) I pause again. This time, I’m collecting my thoughts and trying to figure out how to resolve the situation for mutual benefit.

Not listening, in my experience, is especially problematic in close personal relationships. I have seen (and participated in) knock-down drag-out fights over a simple misunderstanding. Typically both parties are equally guilty, but someone has to take the fall. Be that person, if your relationship matters to you at all.

For me, being silent is difficult. I remind myself that even if the other person is wrong, they have a right to their viewpoint, and probably need to vent some of their frustration as well. Being silent is something I am getting better at, although it is still a matter of conscious competence (noticing improper action and taking proper action).

Grab some paper and write down the circumstances leading up to your last few shouting matches. What we’re looking for is a pattern and some indicators you can look for that help you know that something is about to go terribly wrong. Did you find any? Even something as simple as noticing the buildup of aggravation or tension in your neck can be helpful. When you notice that clue, then you know it’s time to change your attitude, and calm yourself down.

For each of the events you listed, take a few moments and write down how you think things might have happened if you had been able to listen more carefully and then taken action, instead of reacting to what you thought they said. Compared to what really happened, how many of the events would have resulted in less pain and more benefit if you’d been able to silence both your mouth and your brain?

It’s not the way most of us grew up, listening like this, but it can really help. Try to de-escalate the situation. If they get all angry and mad, relax and allow them to get it out of their system. Will yelling back at them help or hurt? I know, it’s easier said than done, but practice. Start with little arguments or disagreements. Practice will help.

From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at :
Photo by Ed Yourdon

About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
This entry was posted in anger, communication, listening, patience, reflection, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Silence is one of the great arts of conversation

  1. Pingback: To make this a century of dialogue we need to find ways to promote a greater awareness of the oneness of humanity. | philosiblog

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