Sitting With Silence

Ok, so, it’s a new year—2015 to be exact—and it’s time to get going. Once again, I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for reading Dignitary’s Retreat; I know you have a lot going on in your lives and the fact that you take the time and trouble to read my blog is appreciated. If you get even half as much out of reading my posts as I do writing them, I’m delighted.


We all have things that we do which relax or center us. For me, during this extended period of upheaval and transformative change in my life, writing this blog has provided a sense of purpose and refuge, so, in a way, your willingness to accompany me on this journey serves an important part of my reinvention. Thank you.


With the ringing in of a new year, I have been thinking a lot about silence. For someone as verbal as I am, it’s a lot easier for me to fill gaps with quick and noisy replies, guesses, prognostications, etc. than it is to sit and allow an answer to reveal itself in the fullness of time. Perhaps because I am a high energy person who loves to accomplish specific goals each day, summoning the patience and maturity to sit still and wait does not come easily for me. I realize that part of my impatience stems from the intense anxiety that arises when an answer is not immediately forthcoming. I hate the not knowing; I fill such gaps with dire (and usually wildly wrong) projected conclusions of my own. Alas, the gods are uninterested in alleviating my self-perpetuated angst.


As time moves forward, I recognize more and more how hugely varied people’s natural rhythms are. I see now that there are many people who don’t feel the need to answer every question or return every quip. Others require time to sort through multiple possibilities before reaching a conclusion. And then, there are those who just take longer to think. For people such as these, the gaps I find so agonizing are simply a necessary and reasonable part of any calculation. I know that part of my struggle with silence comes from the fact that I grew up with a parent who used silence as a form of punishment, so it has all sorts of negative connotations that I have had to overcome. Where do you fall along this bell curve? How good are you at sitting through prolonged silence?


Of late, I’m starting to recognize how much better things go when I serenely wait out the pauses. And, as reluctant as I am to admit it, it is also true that the first answer I reach is not always the best. In fact, as I recently counseled a friend, we cannot see all the possibilities available to us when we are upset or frantic or feeling out of sorts. In fact, our best choices may not reveal themselves until after we have withstood a period of quiet, removing ourselves from the source of stress. Until then, we cannot begin to imagine what wonders await us, if only we have the eyes to see.


Giving people the room and the time to interact with us at a pace that suits them is a cultivated skill. They are not like us and we are not like them. Easy to say, hard to understand. Just because we would do x, y, and then z doesn’t mean that their strategy is lesser, despite the fact that were we to behave the way they do, we’d be sending another message, entirely. Does what I am saying make any sense?


So, your homework assignment for this first post of 2015 is to consider your relationship with the silence of others. How do you react when people are quiet or slow to respond? What if they don’t respond at all? Do you personalize their silence? Do you interpret it as an indication of their esteem for you? Do you even notice? One of my goals for the new year is to bring down the level of internal chatter in my life, to let people be who they are, as they are. How about you?


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One Response to “Sitting With Silence”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Nice job Chrisanna

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