I learnt a lesson years ago about silence, you know, those empty space between words; I learnt that I didn’t need to fill them, that I could be comfortable in deep wells of silence. This week I reflected that I need to practice more.
When I did my leadership programme all those years ago we did a much hated exercise called ‘large group’. There was no structure, no agenda, no objective, just us and time. At first I was so uncomfortable I had to speak. I wasn’t the only one. Some of us shuffled and worried and spoke out filling the minutes and noiseless space. After the first couple of times I reflected on mine and others behaviours and decided I would experiment. I became a silent observer and spent my time listening and watching. I proved to myself that not only could I do it, it actually didn’t feel so bad. I know it improved my listening and observing too.
When I feel anxious or stressed I know I am more likely to dive in with words. I go really fast and have a reputation for being able to talk for England. This week a couple of things happened that made me think I perhaps need to practice silence more.
The first was a great session by @heatherhenry. She talked about how to engage in communities and about giving people space and time, about not barging in with (probably the wrong) answers. She made me smile and gave me a tool for practice – she told us that if you want to be sure you have given someone time to answer, sing a whole chorus of Happy Birthday in your head – that’s just the right amount of time. I’m practicing and although it feels like a long time in my head it doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows and actually people may well have told me things that they wouldn’t had I not given them time.
The second is I spent a great day with a student nurse who is a self-confessed introvert. I reflected that I needed not to talk quite so fast, as, unlike some other colleagues, this conversation couldn’t be like a pacey game of tennis, where I serve the ball and they bounce it back. Perhaps it’s a bit more like golf with quiet walking time between hitting the ball.
Being mindful of silence has always been a positive thing for me but I do need to focus on doing it as my brain darts backwards and forwards and round about and it all tumbles out of my mouth. My son tells me all the time that I ask questions in 3s and it drives him mad – he just says – I can only answer one at a time and which one will it be? :0)
I know that for some people, like me, we are creative when we are bouncing ideas around verbally with others but I respect others right to time and silence. I promise I will continue to try as hard as I can to give people time, careful quiet listening and golden silence.
I had to post this! Silence is golden from the Tremeloes 1967