Silence may be driven by . . .
- Emotions – anxiety, fear, anger, control, disgust
- Thoughts – What do I do? What if this causes more problems? What if this causes me problems? What if I get hurt? Can I really help?
- Goals – I need to listen. I need to understand. I need to stay calm. I have nothing to add. I don’t want to get involved.
- Questions – What do I have to add to the situation? How can I help create change? How will my actions be interpreted?
We never know what causes someone to be silent until we sit down and have a respectful, peaceful conversation with them.
If we believe someone disagrees with us, let’s ask, “Tell me what you are thinking and feeling.” Build a bridge toward them, walk out into the middle of it, and listen respectfully. The other one just might come meet us. Sit down in the middle of that bridge and listen, learn, and share. We don’t have to see things eye-to-eye, but if we want to solve a problem, we must understand the other side.
If we believe someone agrees with us, let’s ask, “Tell me what you are thinking and feeling.” Sit down side-by-side and listen, learn, and share. It is possible their silence reflects something altogether different than we thought. We don’t have to see things eye-to-eye, but if we want partners, we must understand the one beside us.
When we are invited into a conversation with “Tell me what you are thinking and feeling,” let’s be brave enough to risk giving an honest answer in a respectful manner. Let’s believe that the statement is a start at having respectful conversations. If later, we find that’s not true, we can always return to our silence.
How do you handle silence?