The art of silence is not just learning when not to speak out loud. You have to know when not to text, blog, tweet, email, or otherwise electronically express yourself, too.
“Silence is golden.”
This proverbial phrase is so short, yet so full of timeless wisdom. The art and discipline of being silent has been lost in this generation. Freedom of speech aside, people just don’t seem to realize that sometimes it is important to just be quiet. The Internet and cell phones have made it virtually impossible to resist the temptation to reveal what is on one’s mind. While self-expression is needed, there are certain times when you are generally better keeping it to yourself.
Shouldn’t You Always Speak Your Mind?
The short answer is, no. Words are extremely powerful, and they can be used to educate, harm, help, damage, bless, curse, express expertise, or reveal foolishness. It is a mistake to let your words run wild when you are hurt, angry, or otherwise emotional, because feelings can change so rapidly.
This is not to say that you should never speak your mind about things that you are passionate about. However, holding your tongue, staying away from the social media, and putting your cell phone down until you have a clear head, is a wise move. When it comes to words, quality is much better than quantity. The less you say, the more people will listen.
If you feel that something really needs to be said, wait until the best time. Wait for a time when you know that you will be heard. Speak your mind with intelligence and well-crafted words that people will understand. Your words are so much more meaningful when spoken to the right people, at the right time, and in the best way that you can express them. This simply means to warn you to think before you talk, text, or post.
Why is Being Quiet for a while Such a Good Idea?
Silence Allows for Introspection
Your immediate reaction to certain things may not be the best. Taking the time to think things through can help you realize your possible fault in a given situation. You might also realize that in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing to get upset about. Maybe the other people involved are right, and you are wrong. Perhaps you took something the wrong way.
It will Give You a Chance to Listen
Rather than assume things and taking your own interpretation of the situation as a gospel truth, hear the other side of the story. Have someone else offer their perspective about the intentions and reasoning behind a situation. Listening is also important when people are trying to help you, or offering constructive criticism. Instead of getting defensive, you should consider what they are saying. They could be wrong, but they can also be right. Listen first, then decide.
You can Protect Your Reputation
This is especially true, when it is related to business. Blurting out senselessly on Facebook or MySpace, or tweeting without thinking first, can really make you look like a fool with no self-control. One proverb says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” If people are saying things about you, lashing out at them may not be the best choice. Sometimes, if you don’t say anything, your true reputation will outshine what other people say.
Silence can Protect Your Relationships
If you aren’t careful, you can really make yourself appear to be a hurtful jerk. You can damage relationships with one stupid update on your page. Getting on the phone the minute something happens is a recipe for gossip disaster, too. You should be careful with your texts as well. Use discretion about what you say about other people, especially when you are upset. If you say something you really don’t mean, and it spreads like wildfire, the friendship or relationship can be over before you know it.
Silence Shows Good Manners
If you are in a movie theater, at church, in class, or attending a show or conference, it is only polite not to take texts and calls unless it is really important. Talking in these situations is considered very rude. It is also rude to talk at an amusement park attraction while attendants are giving instructions. In any of these situations, you are distracting other people, missing out on what is being offered, and completely disrespecting the presenter and those around you. If silence is ever appreciated, it is at these times.
The next time you decide to express yourself, think about how it will impact your life, your loved ones, your relationships, your career, and your overall reputation. Express yourself when it is worth it, and hold your peace when it’s more effective.