Silence is Golden

I’m not a quiet person. I’m enthusiastic and chatty, a real social being. I’ve been told to be quiet – once (memorably) during a Christmas celebration no less. I’ve challenged people who’ve told me off for being loud despite them being way louder than I, who then firmly rejected that fact when I pointed it out to them. I’m also a loud and passionate supporter of my rugby team.

I start with these disclosures to demonstrate that I’m not naturally someone who is drawn to silence, nor who believes that quietness is always a virtue.

Despite this, I’ve always been a really good listener. People have long come to me to be heard, to share their problems, to seek solutions. I know how to get other people to talk, and I know when it’s time to stay quiet, for I understand the therapeutic power of not speaking.

But a new learning is the power of choosing to stay quiet. Those occasions when I’ve typed a response to something I’ve seen online, only to decide to hit the delete key, or to moderate my words. When I’ve typed out a rant, then decided not to publish. When before speaking or typing, I’ve stopped to consider if what I have to say will add anything to the discussion, or be of benefit to anyone who needs it. To give thought to whether the person I’m speaking to is willing to listen. What if I could inadvertently start a war of words – is that something I want, is it something I could cope with?

I was feisty when I was young. I was argumentative and fought my corner. I had energy and enthusiasm for righting wrongs, and for defending my opinions and beliefs. Now, not so much. Now I appreciate a quieter life. Now I choose my battles carefully. That’s not to say that I never say what needs to be said, but I try to ensure that I don’t say it in anger or frustration, and that I gauge whether the audience is interested in hearing what I (or anyone else) has to offer. If I do say something, I try to be measured and kind.

Is this old age? Is this wisdom? Is it a desire to avoid confrontation or a fight? Is this recognition that there’s far too many polarising opinions flying about in the world we live in? I don’t know. I suspect, it’s a mixture of them all, and more besides.

I’m a lover of music, films and good TV, a regular watcher/listener of an interesting or informative YouTube video or podcast – yet I spend most of my day without adding a soundtrack to everyday background sounds. For I am not made uncomfortable by silence… even though this hasn’t always been the case. When first I lived on my own aged 50, I bought a radio. It played quietly in the background to keep me company during the day, and I slept with a small light on at night. Then one day both the radio and the light started to annoy me, so I turned them off and I’ve not wanted or needed them since.

But more than that, I’m relieved at the gradual reduction in those times when I’ve looked back and had to ask myself:

  • did I need to say that?
  • was it worth it?
  • could I have put it better?
  • was that actually helpful to anyone?

I cannot deny that I’m still very much a work in progress on this front, but the power of the pause and the value of choosing silence over blurting out my every thought is proving transformative, so I’ll keep working at it.

Silence – the power of staying quiet when you want to shout. Can you always? Should you always?


Β© Debra Carey, 2021

11 Comments

  1. Ally Bean

    I’m a good listener and a problem solver by nature, so people tell me personal stuff all. the. time. I used to have more opinions, but now I’m more into just sitting back and watching life unfold in front of me. Not long ago someone said to me, not everything matters. I find I’m applying that idea to all facets of my life, like a wise woman…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Widow Badass

    How much more lovely a world it would be if more people took the time to ask themselves those questions you posed before they opened their mouths! Or ran to their keyboards…

    Great post, Debs.

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alanj2

    Welcome to ‘grown-up’! πŸ™‚

    I’ve worked with teenagers for nearly 30 years and yes here are the feisty, noisy ones and there are the quiet, shy ones who come up afterwards with a question or thanks and in every case listening is vital – especially to the noisy ones because quite often their noise is bravado.

    Many of the problems we have today are because a ‘keyboard warrior’ can blaze away without fear of reprisal. I am reminded of a story I heard about 60 years ago, but which has stayed with me.

    Abraham Lincoln had an aide who had been deeply wounded by a personal attack and he asked ‘Mr President., what shall I do?’ Lincoln advised him to draft a strong letter in response – hold nothing back. The aide returned with the letter and showed Lincoln who said that it was just the thing. He then advised the aide not to send the letter but file it instead “because that kind of filing keeps it sharp but does not damage anybody.”

    You’ve started on the same path; draft it, don’t send it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. debscarey

    Ally, I know what you mean about being told stuff all the time. It’s lovely being trusted, but it can also be a burden. In those circumstances, I found it hard not to offer advice. Now I wait till I’m asked, as I know – even then – there’s a big chance it’ll be ignored. I’ve also had to learn not to get frustrated about that fact. I like that “not everything matters”. I’ll add to that something a friend said to me “why are you bothered what people who you don’t like or respect think about you?” Wisdom is a hard road sometimes πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. debscarey

    “because that kind of filing keeps it sharp but does not damage anybody” – I love that Alan. I’ve kept stuff I’ve written until I wasn’t carrying the hurt any longer, then shredded it. Very cathartic that type of shredding πŸ™‚ Good point about the noisy ones and bravado.

    Like

  6. debscarey

    LA, I’ve struggled with it for decades. Life is a lot more peaceful now – most of the time! I’ll probably be a work in progress on this, and many other issues. Part of being a grown up as Alan says πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. snakesinthegrass2014

    The older I get, the more I hold my tongue. I choose to believe this is the benefit of experience rather than simply avoiding conflict. If nothing else, thinking that helps keep me from thinking I’m no longer relevant. πŸ˜‰ Great post, Deb. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  8. debscarey

    Marty, ain’t nothing wrong with avoiding unnecessary conflict and what we learn from a lifetime’s experience is that fact. We all have our role to play, even if it’s a quieter one than before. Thanks for the compliment, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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