From an early age, women are given both conscious and subconscious cues to make those around her feel comfortable. Perhaps that’s why many of us find it necessary to fill the silent gaps in conversations, whether that’s a conversation with a supervisor to negotiate salary or an awkward silence in a social setting. Many of us, as women, feel compelled to fill those silence moments in an attempt to put the other person/people at ease.
But maybe, we should rethink silence. Silence is not the awkward part of the conversation, but a vital part of it. It is a tool of communication that can be used when and as desired. There’s a lovely saying that goes “the silent part of the song, IS part of the song.” And the same can be said for conversations.
‘Don’t fill the silent gaps,’ is a classic negotiation tactic that can and should be applied to other areas of life when needed.
Most recently, I was at a dinner where I was being told that a woman’s romantic relationships are a variation of the relationship she has with her father. The subtext of that conversation: ‘my relationship with my father must be dysfunctional.’ It is not. And in an attempt to explain that, I not only over-shared, but went on to ramble incoherent nothings for quite some time. Mind you, I had just met some of these people for the first time. Talk about awkward and uncomfortable. A silent nod would have sufficed. It might have even signaled my desire to not engage in that conversation.
Perhaps a big part of reluctance to use silence comes from the trappings of being a modern woman.
As modern women, we constantly face pressure (a lot of it, no doubt, is self imposed) to have an opinion about everything. The lack of having an opinion/reaction is often regarded as a form of weakness, or worse – unintelligence. But, why should one have an opinion about everything? Not only is that overwhelming, but it is also humanly impossible.
It should be known that it is okay to abstain from a conversation; most people involved in the discussion probably won’t even notice your silence. Of course, I am referring to silence in the daily interactions, and not advocating for remaining silent when it comes to injustices or wrongdoings.
In my opinion, the ability to use silence in daily interactions is indicative of an inner confidence, a confidence that doesn’t need to be boastful. It is also acknowledges the listener’s intelligence. It is a way of acknowledging that the listener too, understands the wordless communication that occurs between humans.
American dramatist, Lillian Hellman, once said, “I like people who refuse to speak until they are ready.” I’m not sure if I like them, but I admire them. And aspire to be one.