Six Wonderful Ways to Foster Silence

Daphne and me

Daphne and Me. July 2015.

Our grandgirl Daphne looks so much like her mommy that it makes my heart ache. She is just about the age now that her mommy was when she uttered one of the most potent phrases of her childhood.

On that day, back in 1985, my daughter looked at me and announced:

Sometimes I like to think about things . . . . and not tell anyone. Her words taught me that young children are comfortable with silence. But the rest of us?

As a nation, we seem to despise silence. We jog or mount the treadmill with our custom playlists blaring in our ears. Cars come equipped with entertainment systems. Our smartphones provide portable access to the latest hits or the Hippest (is that even a word anymore?) New Artist That Nobody’s Heard Of.

Our collective outlook may be if we’re not conversing, there’s a darned good, maybe even imperative, reason for it–and it ain’t pretty.

There’s an exception, of course: Where strangers gather for any period longer than an elevator ride–coffee shops, bus stations, waiting rooms, subway cars–everyone observes the unspoken rule: So Long As You Are Busy Reading A Magazine Or Staring At Some Internet Device, You Need Not Speak.

I think our impulse to fill any auditory void with noise is misguided. I think when we allow  silence to settle around us, to linger, we open up spaces for amazing things to happen. 

Here are some ways to open up those magical, silent spaces.

  1. Go nonverbal. You might answer a simple question with a smile and a nod, instead of a sentence.
  2. Settle in. Leaning forward anticipates conversation while relaxing into the backrest of your seat signals contentment.
  3. Just watch. Quietly observe as your grandlittle plays with Lego blocks or fires up the Wii.
  4. Study your setting. Did you ever really look at the painting over the sofa at your mother-in-law’s house? Observing your surroundings nurtures the quiet and leads you to new discoveries.
  5. Look up. See the ceiling, the sky, tree branches, an awning?
  6. Listen. What do you hear? Are children laughing on the playground? Are floorboards creaking upstairs? Is wind mussing the leaves of the tree outside?

Strangers make small talk, when necessary, to fill an awkward void. But when kinfolk or dear friends share silence, it becomes an emblem of affinity, a badge of trust. 

Try some. I think you’ll develop a taste for it.

rabbit conga

Oh that you would keep silent,
    and it would be your wisdom!

Job 13:5 (ESV)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). The conversation began on January sixth and we’ll continue until we run out of things to say. Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear from each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.

Please join us. Be a part of the conversation.

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