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The Conflicting Powers of Silence

Posted by vivhudson on July 25, 2016 at 7:45 AM

When is silence good and when is silence bad? Silence holds the key to many things. It can help us connect with our self, calm our ego, make someone feel heard and therefore build a relationship. It can also result in rules being broken, a loss of accountability and dangerous situations.


With these thought in mind we can quickly see that the art of the appropriate use of silence is golden.


Let's talk about the good first.


Connecting with oneself

Spending time alone in reflection, mindfulness or meditation is good for our personal health and wellbeing (and therefore also good for those around us). The results are in that spending time reflecting on our day and taking time to be grateful, acknowledging ourselves for what we did well and what we could do better all help us grow as a person.


Spending time in silence allows you to deepen your presence in the moment and with that reduces stress. Spending time alone with deep breathing practice has also been shown to grow new grey matter developing new neural pathways. Spending time in silence also gives you time to tune into your body and really notice what you are feeling. The flow on from this is it allows you to tap into more of your intuitive self by growing your self awareness and emotional intelligence.


Make sure you take time to silence from your phone too (especially while driving!).


Calm the ego

Spending time alone in a positive way can help calm the ego. The ego is what ultimately stops us from fostering better relationships, what lands us in deep water, causes road rage and is the crux of all arguments. Our ego is a way that we seek to validate ourselves and where we can let our emotions take control, leading to poorer decision making and scathing comments or actions.


If you are in a conversation that turns heated or you notice your jaw clenching, your fists or shoulders tightening, a change in the way you breathe, perhaps silence is the answer. Often the things we say to feed our ego in a moment of anger can leave wounds that are difficult to repair and not just for the other person involved.


Next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel your pulse rise, pause instead, say nothing, breathe and simply observe or listen.


Silence to hear

The moments of silence that we partake when we listen to someone speak build valuable connections. We often listen with the intent to reply or to wait for a long enough pause in conversation to add what we want to say. Rarely do we listen to truly listen.


We can get in the habit of formulating our reply before the other person has finished speaking and then perhaps blurt it out before we forget what pearls of wisdom we were about to say. When we hold ourselves still and silent we will learn we can trust ourselves more and be confident that we will have a worthy response when the time comes for us to speak. In doing so you will build your presence, you will foster deeper relationships and become more confident as a thinker and person.


Now for the bad..


Broken rules

As we grow up from a child to an adult we see rules being broken. They could be unspoken rules, family rules or the law itself. Perhaps we are the ones breaking the rules, knowing full well no one will say anything. It is these times that silence causes problems, pain and powerlessness.


What are we saying when we don't say anything? Is it the person cutting in the line, is it the person who we catch shoplifting or abusing another. What is it that we fear? Why do we not speak up? Is it social or peer pressure, the fear of conflict, pure apathy or something else?


One of the Homeland Security's slogans is 'If you see something, say something'. Why do we need reminding to speak up? We all have a conscience but there are times we choose not to listen to it. Instances where garbage is left behind, not admitting you got paid back too much change or perhaps worse. These can be situations that we could have done something but chose not too.


The reasons we stay silent can be because we fear our own safety or perhaps are only concerned about our own patch. We increasingly rely on law enforcement or leave things as someone else's problem. Maybe it's not in our job description, who is going to know or we think we can't make a difference anyway. Look at how many do not recycle, or use someone else's bad behavior as an excuse for our own.


Our conscience is at the heart of this and raising kids with a good and healthy conscience as well as giving them a voice to be heard is one step forward. For those of us who already have grown up maybe it is time for some reflection. When we see things that aren't right and don't act it does create mental garbage in our heads due to a thing called cognitive dissonance.


Cognitive dissonance is mental stress that is caused by two or more differing beliefs or values. When we litter we may know it is not right but are too lazy to put it in the garbage (somehow my kids I think are still immune to a conscience around this!).


Dangerous Situations

Dangerous situations can occur when we succumb to peer group pressure. I am certain many people have ended up in prison (or could have) or worse because they stayed silent when their friends drank too much, used drugs, texted and drove or failed to stop a fight or rape.


You may have heard of experiments that have been done where someone has been put in a place of need in a crowded situation and no one stops to help - BUT - when one person DOES, it becomes permission for others to do so too. This is what is known as the 'bystander effect'. The bystander effect is where the more crowded a situation is, the less personally responsible an individual feels. However when one person does help then it becomes almost permission for others to help.


Are you comfortable being a bystander and if so what keeps you there?


Lack of acccountability

Another place where silence is an entrapment is when we fail to make others accountable. At work it could be allowing someone to move beyond a deadline, show up late or taking a shortcut that could create a dangerous situation. The flow on effect is that what is allowed then endures and becomes a new standard for others to be guided by. The problem is then when a problem occurs who really is to blame?


As parents we can fail to make our kids accountable by picking up after them long after they are able to themselves, letting them off doing their jobs or not reprimanding them appropriately. This is just setting our children up to become bystanders in life who feel entitled and are quick to blame.


The power of silence is golden when used in the right way but finding your voice is equally important. What will you do today to manifest how you use silence?


If you are looking for more guidance when it comes to this then join the https://ijustsayit.com" target="_blank">'I Just Say It' community and learn when and how to say it.


Vivien Hudson is an avid virtual worker. She founded Brain, Body and Business, the business of integrating the science of the brain and body to better engage, change, be human and lead ... in life, business and virtually. http://www.brainbodyandbusiness.com/


Categories: Brain, Business

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