I have been observing how people handle with silence for a while now. It gets addictive. Whenever I see small or large groups of people, I try to observe, sneakily, their communication skills. I seek for something beyond verbal communication, because it would be too obvious and exactly the opposite of what I am trying to figure out. Lately, we have been used to different forms of communication in a variety still unknown.
With social media, we all found alternative ways to communicate to the world in a large scale, even when we do not speak the same language. A good example of that is the so called “memes”, those funny images of something most people can relate with, shared as jokes (it feels really stupid to explain what a meme is on the internet). Another way of analyzing communication skills nowadays are the virtual and remote tools we all have at our disposal, once it is not only unusual, but also considered odd to meet someone who has not succumbed to smartphones technology yet. All of those new forms of communicating with each other leads us to a belief that we can all be talk actives. It became a personal pleasure among people on social media to say/type something that would shut up the opponent in an argue, even the friendly ones. I feel like this is a disease, and I will tell you why.
People cannot feel comfortable with silence anymore. They have to have noise all around them to calm down. Some people can’t even sleep without noises (I don’t judge, sometimes there’s a very good reason… But some other times, there’s not). Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love listening to music! But not all the time. It’s not rare to find ourselves in a group of friends and not only everyone is screaming their lungs out to make themselves heard, they also have that tiny speaker box, which they connect via Bluetooth with their smartphones and plays music in an even louder volume. Try asking to turn the volume down, you will hear people probably classifying you in either the boring or very-old-person group. If you still cannot see what’s my point, try to stay in silence with people. They can’t stop talking even when watching a 20 seconds movie on YouTube, they just have to comment something (and they expect you to engage with the comment they have just made). Aristoteles was right when he stated that humans are social animals. We need to communicate with each other constantly and this is understandable. But, at some point in the last decades, we have completely discharged silence as a form of natural communication. So, I proposed myself a challenge: how comfortable am I with silence whenever I am not alone?
I took my chances as a perfect opportunity, once I am currently in an exchange program and, therefore, language is one of the challenges I have to deal with. Even though I am from a country that speaks a very similar (almost the same) language as the one I am living right now, a lot of people here speaks English as the main language, instead of Portuguese. One of my most remarkable observations on that matter was the day I went for a walk with a friend from a completely different culture, comparing to my own and the one we are living in right now. The day was amazing, we were super close to each other by that time, so there was a very low chance that silence would be uncomfortable, right?… Well, not really.
I went ahead and kept my mouth shut, just enjoying the city and the company as we walked together. I felt very comfortable, but my friend started to show a disturb over the silence and made several (several, indeed) attempts to start a conversation with me. I politely responded briefly and then, I went back to my silence. That happened in a loop for almost the whole afternoon (he possibly hated me for doing this). The unease sensation silence has taken over by people is like an itchiness for mosquito bites: too uncomfortable to deal with.
People are scared of silence. I see this as a retrocession on communication. We have found amazing communication alternatives, alternatives that are so powerful that are inclusive to every special conditions someone might have to face (we can easily communicate with blind people, deaf people, and so on), but we have discharged silence as a communication skill along the way. We avoid the silence in every chance we have, and by doing so, we also avoid listening to ourselves, to the sounds of nature.
What does nothing sound like? For me, sounds like my thoughts (or sounds like nothing, when I put some effort to meditation). For most people, sounds like fear, but they have no idea what they fear yet. Silence is also a communication and I would risk betting it is the most powerful form of communication. Ask an elderly couple what does it feels like to be silent around one another. It’s a comfort so strong that you don’t have to spark anything to make this other person feel good around you. It is the most natural of all communication skills, it lits up your inner peace. But in order to achieve that, first, you have to find the inner peace in silence with no one other than yourself.
Silence is empowering. Feel your silence and embrace what it tells you. Argue with yourself (and don’t discharge professional help if it is too hard to deal with yourself alone), laugh with yourself, and bring your silence to others. It’s a connection you don’t want to miss.