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#MicroblogMondays 167: Silence

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The BBC had an article about a little while back about the cultural interpretations of silence.  English speakers tend to panic when there is silence, whereas speakers of other languages see it “as a valuable moment of reflection and a sign of respect for what the last speaker has said.”

As I read it, I realized how much I like silence.  I don’t like waiting for an answer any more than the next person but I like sitting with people in silence.  I especially like driving in silence.  And pauses in conversation are nice because they’re like a period at the end of a thought.

Are you comfortable with silence?  How long would you let a pause go on in a conversation before you felt the need to fill it?

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20 comments

1 a { 11.06.17 at 6:45 am }

Big fan of silence! Not while driving, though, because then I hear too much engine noise and start thinking it sounds weird. I don’t really do small talk, so I am usually sitting in somewhat awkward silence.

2 Delenn { 11.06.17 at 6:58 am }

I was reminded this weekend how much I do not like silence in conversations. My husband was gpne this weekend, so i was single parent to my 9.5 year old daughter (no problem) and my 18.5 year old son with high functioning autism. He usually talks a lot with his dad…about lots of things, but a lot of them are things I like too (nerd/geek things). But. He doesnt reallg connect with me that way right now. So, we had these wonderfully awkward conversations where i tried drawing him out
..and I got nothing…or as close to that as possible. Drove me insane.

3 Middle Girl { 11.06.17 at 8:45 am }

Silences in face to face conversations are fine. But not on the phone. I don’t drive often but I appreciate silence then also.

I wish it were more silent on the buses, especially in the mornings.

4 Raven { 11.06.17 at 9:09 am }

I love silence… especially in conversation – I think they tell you so much about a person. Some people can’t bear silence, and frantically ramble to fill the space up … and others sit in silence contentedly.

5 Shail { 11.06.17 at 9:23 am }

I love the comfortable silences we experience while with those close to us. But if I am the host and there is silence too long, I try to draw out the guests.

6 Cristy { 11.06.17 at 9:54 am }

It depends on the situation. Comfortable silences, where everyone is just being in the moment I love. There’s so much peace. But during conversations that require insight and thought, then the opposite is true. To feel others’ eyes boring into you as there is a wait for the response is something that causes panic to rise.

I agree that most English speakers don’t do well with silence, but I think a lot of that is dependent on the situation. Silence at dinner parties we would consider the death of a party. Interesting to think that other cultures might not.

7 Valery { 11.06.17 at 10:04 am }

oh, on dinner parties; I love that silence when everyone starts to eat desert!
But in my last interview I could not come up with the words fluently. Then silence was not good I’m afraid. Although different culture, not sure if India counts as English speaking culturally.
VV

8 Lori Shandle-Fox { 11.06.17 at 10:15 am }

Generally speaking, I love silence. It’s hard to get in touch with what you really feel and what you want to express when there’s non-stop chatter. But with my husband, silence is frustrating because he’s an introvert and he’ll never say anything so that makes it look even more like I never shut up! On the other hand, my sister talks constantly- so loudly and so fast, it’s exhausting. If there’s a second of silence on the phone she’ll say: “Hello?”

9 Counting Pink Lines { 11.06.17 at 10:32 am }

I’m not good at silence with most people but I’m trying to teach myself to be better about that. Especially now that I’ve seen my boss use that technique so effectively.

10 Ana { 11.06.17 at 11:36 am }

I love a comfortable silence. But it takes a certain kind of relationship for the silence to be truly comfortable, you know?

11 Cyn K { 11.06.17 at 2:13 pm }

My husband can be quite taciturn, so I’ve learned to get comfortable with silence.

12 Turia { 11.06.17 at 2:48 pm }

It depends so much on the silence. A comfortable silence when Q. and I are driving somewhere or just hanging out together at home? Lovely. A long, torturous silence when I’m trying to get my students to answer a question or (even worse) I’m the one in the hot seat and someone is waiting for me? Awful. Just awful.

13 Mali { 11.06.17 at 4:02 pm }

As all the other commenters said, there are good, comfortable silences and bad, awkward silences. When I was doing corporate training, I had to learn to embrace silences, to wait until someone was brave enough to answer or ask a question. That wasn’t easy for me, and didn’t come naturally.

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.06.17 at 7:48 pm }

I do like silence, but during a conversation, I have to make myself ok with it. Like, I have to remind myself that silence doesn’t mean the person wasn’t listening or that the listener is about to blast me.

I’ll be thinking about this. Thanks, Mel. (Hear my silence on this.)

15 katherinea12 { 11.06.17 at 10:14 pm }

I like silence, so long as it’s a companionable, comfortable variety (rather than the strained version or where it’s a marker of absence). During my workouts, especially when I was outside, I had times I’d turn off my music and just run. It was marvelous.

In conversation, I like silences where it’s obvious that the other person is considering what has been said. Not so much if I think they’re angry or upset. Like Lori Lavender Luz above, I’ll be thinking on this for a bit.

16 Jess { 11.06.17 at 10:27 pm }

Mmmm, silence. I used to walk with music in my ears, and now I really like walking in silence. I drove a loooong way over the past few days, and I basically looked for radio stations or sat in silence (although not too long while driving by my sleepy self). When it comes to conversation, I think silence can be an art, a representation of listening and absorbing what the person is saying. But it can often be interpreted as disinterest, or not listening, or being distracted in some way. A comfortable silence is the best…when you can sit with someone and have a conversation that has lots of lulls and you just sit in it, comfortably. That’s nice.

17 Chandra Lynn { 11.07.17 at 12:52 am }

Silence can be meaningful, but silence can also be cruel–so it depends on situation. I’m generally okay with a meditative pause or sitting comfortably in silence with another, but not okay with the “silent treatment” or “death stare” type silence in which the response is embedded in body language and facial expressions.

18 Tina Basu { 11.07.17 at 8:07 am }

All my life I hated silence, but now with a toddler around, all I want is a few minutes of silence!!

19 JustHeather { 11.12.17 at 9:58 am }

I have learned to enjoy silence in conversations. It is a part of the Finnish culture (as the article says, if I had read it first). These days, I find it…funny? comical? sitting with a group of foreigners and Finns and all seem to be happily content with a silent break in the midst of conversation. My dad on the other hand seems to get a bit freaked out when with hubby and I and we just enjoy the silence. Hah.

20 David Ellis { 11.18.17 at 8:09 pm }

I’m totally comfortable with silence, providing that I am not being waited on for an answer in a conversation. Even though I really enjoy the buzz that I get from music, I’m not so much a fan of the buzz of burbling conversations, they can sometimes overwhelm my senses and I long for the calm, peacefulness found in a library or a quiet area of a coffee shop. Silence can be extremely good for stimulating ideas when there is too much noise or stress for the brain to deal with and I often use it to help me get through a piece of writing or to fashion an ending that is eluding me for a piece. Silence is golden in the right hands and how it is handled.

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