One of my favorite songs goes: “It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart/Without saying a word you can light up the dark/Try as it may, I could never explain what I hear when you don’t say a thing.”
Granted, a warm, moonlit night on the beaches of San Diego with a special guy may contribute some to the memories that have etched this song forever into my brain. But there is more to why I have been thinking about this song so much.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little things we do when we talk to each other. The awkward glances towards the ground, the nervous smile. The clenched fist, a red face. The look in someone’s eye. We’ve all been there before.
Most of us know what these mean when we see them. For me, I’m oblivious to the fact that someone may be interested in me, sometimes we may not know that a rise in the volume of someone’s voice may mean excitement and not anger. For the most part though, I think we are good at recognizing these non-verbal cues.
What we are not good with is silence. Silence is golden! Maybe in a movie theater, but in a car, silence is awkward. Turn on the radio! The radio always seems to help ease those tensions and build a bridge over the cavernous spaces of conversation. But my question is: Why is silence so bad?
Why can’t we sit and enjoy another’s company without feeling the need to converse. I think it is because, in American society, we need validation. We need to feel as though we are entertaining, wonderful company, and the greatest conversationalist ever known to humankind. We need to fill our egos.
Egos, yes, we have egos. Your ego is what makes you think “Wow, she must really be into me!” when that hot girl happens to stand next to you at the bar instead of thinking, “Maybe it’s so crowded that she can’t stand anywhere else.” It’s also that thing that jerks your head every time you hear a horn honk.
We also seek this validation during conversation. How many times have you stopped conversation and asked, “What do you think?” to someone who hasn’t said a word while you talked? Did you do it because you really wanted to know what they thought or because you wanted to see whether they were listening?
We need the head nods, the grunts, the sighs and any other indication we can get from someone to let us know that they are listening to every word we say. What we don’t think about is silence.
Shouldn’t a good listener be able to just sit and listen, allowing you the time, space and manner to air your fears, concerns, secrets, bad days or good memories? It’s hard to do it though because it has been ingrained in us to give verbal or physical feedback while we are listening to the words of others.
So what can we do about this? Sit, listen and challenge yourself to give the air to someone who really needs an ear. Most importantly, as a co-communicator, we need to not fear silence. Silence is good. Silence is golden. Silence allows us the opportunity to experience the nuances of another individual that we would never have been able to experience before if we simply reacted to what they say.
Just remember this: “The smile on your face lets me know that you need me/There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me. The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall/You say it best when you say nothing at all.”