He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.

He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.Elbert Hubbard

How much silence is there here? It looks like two are talking and a third is gesturing. The fourth has their back to us.

How much silence is there here? It looks like two are talking, a third is gesturing, and the fourth has their back to us. If they don’t understand silence, what else are they missing?

What does that mean?
Life isn’t just about talking. Sometimes, we just sit in silence. Sometimes it’s in the library, other times it is at home. But silence often speaks louder than words.

And I’m not talking only about the so called ‘silent treatment,’ although it fits this quote. There are times when there are no words, and times when silence is the most appropriate thing to say.

The quote states that if a person cannot understand your silence, how will they properly understand your words when you do speak? Silence is as much a part of communication as rests are a part of music. Without the rests, without the silence, there is no pause, there is no reflection. Just noise.

To understand the silence of a person, it is helpful to understand the person. We all have times when we are silent, and times when we are not. If you do not understand the need for silence, your ability to understand the other times is questionable.

Why is understanding silence important?  
There are, as mentioned before, many times when silence is appropriate. There are times when word won’t say what you feel, and silence is the appropriate alternative. There are times when words are simply taking up space and not providing anything useful, and silence is simply the best possible alternative.

There are times when simply being is sufficient, and words would be inappropriate, and silence is appropriate. There are times when words would take away from the focus or effort at hand, and silence is the appropriate alternative. There are plenty of other times when silence is useful or appropriate.

Yet there are people who seem oblivious to the need or appropriateness of silence, and keep on talking. Some may not know any better, others may be in love with the sound of their own voice, and a few are actually afraid of the silence. Without the basic knowledge of silence, how can they truly understand what you say?

Words and silence go hand in hand. Thus we have such terms as ‘Dramatic Pause’ and a ‘Pregnant Silence’ and so many more. Timing in comedy is all about manipulating silence and integrating it into the routine. The space between paragraphs is another form of silence. Are you beginning to understand?

Where can I apply this in my life?
This quote isn’t about hoping people understand what you mean when you are giving them the ‘silent treatment.’ Instead, I believe that this quote is urging us to pay attention to the silence, and to understand how it is part of communication. Without that understanding, it will be hard to understand any of the rest.

There are plenty of quotes about communication, but this is one of my favorites: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” How often do you end up having a longer discussion after having acted after a discussion you misunderstood?

Similarly, how often do you pause for a moment, either to catch your breath or for dramatic effect, only to have someone jump in and take over the conversation? Have you ever been the person who jumped in and hijacked the conversation? I know I have, and even today do so, on occasion.

And that is just one way to misunderstand or misuse silence. How many others have you managed to mangle, or witness being mangled? No one is perfect, and we have to work to better understand the use of silence. Other than musicians, who has had training in when and how to use silence?

Lack of formal training leaves us with experience as a learning method. And that requires us to notice what has or has failed to happen. To do that, we need to be conscious of what is going on around us. We need to notice that the prior speaker is somewhat upset that we jumped in on conversation while they paused to take a breath.

Then what do we do? We can apologize, or we can pause ourselves and allow them back into the conversation. But more importantly, we need to learn from the experience. How can we better understand the use of silence and appreciate it, instead of simply seeing it as an opportunity to pounce?

That takes some practice, doesn’t it? And even then, it is possible to get a little bit excited and step in during someone else’s silence. But practice will help you get better. At least it has helped me. You will progress only as fast as you are willing to observe, learn and adapt.

There is also the polite alternative; ask before butting in. “Excuse me, but…” or “Did I understand you to say…” or some other way to politely steal the conversation away from the speaker. It is even better if after making your statement, thank the speaker for the interruption, and give it back to them.

Silence is as much a part of life and conversation as are the words. Spend as much time contemplating the value of silence as you do contemplating the value of what is said. For sometimes what is not said is just as important.

confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/elberthubb135182.html
Photo by Tom Fogg

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