Ever heard the expression “speech is silver, but silence is golden.” When does this little gem of wisdom come into play? I can think of a few examples… shall we explore them?
First off it has sometimes been said that we listen not to understand, but to reply. This is harmful to our friendships. As important as it is to be able to TALK to our friends, what good is that if we do not stop to actually listen to them too? Catch yourself if you constantly find the conversation returning to you, even if you think you are being helpful and offering a similar story to relate. Sometimes, instead of relating, asking more questions about the other person or situation they are talking about is a better way of understanding.
Next it is important to talk about when you have said something upsetting. Maybe you realised it straight away, or maybe someone had to pull you up on your insensitivity, but either way you are aware that your proverbial foot has landed in your mouth and you’ve upset the apple cart. The apple cart being one or more people. Unfortunately you can’t change what you have said or take it back. If you can offer a further, better explanation of what you meant rather than how it sounded… please go ahead and explain…. Briefly. Apologise to anyone who was offended. Say that you are sorry that you have upset someone and that wasn’t your intention, and you hope they will forgive you. If you keep going on and on, you will dig a deeper hole. At some point you need to know when to drop the topic…. And move along. Either they forgive you or they don’t, but real friends should give you the benefit of the doubt.
Speaking of dropping the topic, that brings us to the next example of when it is a good time to exercise silence…. How about the expression, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all?! If you find yourself needing to weigh in on a friends choices, about her lifestyle, her spending or eating habits, her clothing or her choice of partner, ask yourself why you feel your opinion on the matter is prudent? Remember, your opinion is just that, and opinion and voicing it may come off as a judgement. If it might actually be one on reflection, maybe don’t say it.
Some things are better left unsaid..... know this BEFORE you say them!!!
Then of course, there is the scenario when you think of the perfect comeback to some witty banter, but you know deep down that it will cut deep. Think before you speak people. Don’t hurt your friend in the name of a joke. Banter is supposed to be fun, let’s keep it that way. That’s some good advice.
Advice. There’s another time to hold back, until you are asked for. Or at very least you ask if you can offer it. Most of the time people want to be heard and understood. They want to wallow for a moment and figure things out on their own. They don’t want to be rushed through. Even if you do offer advice, stay silent when they don’t take it.
Do NOT say I told you so.
Stay silent when someone else is talking. Conversation involves taking turns. Wait your turn. Do not interrupt people.
You have nothing to say. Running your mouth to end an uncomfortable silence can sometimes make things even more uncomfortable. Friendships grow in comfortable silence.
Know your audience. If what you are going to say is going to be offensive, fall on deaf ears or unlikely to be understood, hold your tongue. If you are talking about something dear to you, you will waste your breath and end up disappointed if you don’t select your audience wisely.
The last, and arguably most important time to stay silent is when you are contemplating your response or reaction to something triggering to you. Don’t let people push you into a reaction, you are entitled to take some time and space to decide how it is you are feeling and how you would like to respond to any given situation, whilst also running through the pro’s and con’s or possible consequences of what you do or say. Keep in mind though that silence can be seen as an aggressive move, and may trigger some people into leaving you if you wait too long to respond. Saying nothing is still sending a message and is still a choice with a consequence. Sometimes silence is louder than anything you could possibly say.
These are just a few scenario’s I can think of when silence is indeed golden. Can you think of anymore?
Your Best Friend ForNever