Sunday, April 30, 2006

Must silence always be tragic or deadly?

"In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood."
- Henry David Thoreau

If someone close to you, someone you love, someone you count on for fulfillment of the daily needs and toils of your life, someone you work with, someone in your family, someone you planned to spend the rest of your life with, demonstrates an apparent lack of interest in what interests you, most people would be hurt.

Silence may not just be misunderstood, it could be a death knell for a relationship. If someone's silence is not intended to be a sign of rejection or a cause of hurt, it still may be perceived that way by others.

We are, by nature, social beings. We talk so much that we don't place much value on what we say in many cases. Even the chat of little meaning has value though in that it maintains a sense of belonging to each other in some appropriate way. When it stops, we believe that trouble is near.

The same applies among nations as among people. However, among nations silence is often perceived as a time for preparation for war, a time of secrecy when one former participant in dialogue falls silent for the purpose of preparing something unpleasant for the other.

It pays us not only to be honest with each other, but to be open as well. When we have something to hide, that is a symptom of mistrust, a rift between two parties. It's a wedge that gets driven farther and farther into a gap until the space becomes a wound and the wound becomes infected.

Silence can be hurtful, even deadly. Use it only for quiet contemplation. And when you do, make sure others who expect you to communicate with them know why you are quiet.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help us understand the silence of others as something not to be feared, if we know the reason for it.
Learn more at

No comments: