Silence is not just gold — it's power

The benefits of choosing to be silent rather than increasing the immense amount of useless chatter humans create

There are many situations that demand our verbal response on moral grounds. As Desmond Tutu put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Elie Wiesel, Paulo Freire and Martin Luther King Jr. would agree.

Yet, there are just as many times when we can send a stronger message with what we do not say. Placed in the right context, silence is very powerful.

Without moments of silent contemplation in our conversations, we risk neglecting to listen. Without silence, there can be no conversation at all, merely competing monologues.

According to the Washington Post article, "Shhh. How to use the power of silence to improve just about everything," by Cynthia Kane, slowing down to create silence, listening to one another and seeing the situation from other perspectives “lets compassion seep in.”

By taking a moment to respond with quiet contemplation, we are able to step back from the situation and get a bigger view of what's going on. We can see that the person we are speaking with is just like us. They need care and attention. They want to be heard and understood, too.

The only person who can change you is yourself. This is why silent meditation and mindfulness are known to be effective methods for changing oneself for the better.

Likewise, if you are trying to change someone else, silence can be a very important tool for encouraging people to really hear what they are saying. Sometimes the only legitimacy for their words is the opposition it creates against your words, which is enough to fuel their fire and justify their stance.

Try to bounce these same words against a void of silence and they completely lose their power. They seem to dissipate into the nothingness and what’s left may be underlying, unseen drivers in our lives, which actually need to be addressed: our shadows, roadblocks, traumas, unhealthy habits, thought patterns, etc.

Let’s play a little thought exercise to exemplify this. Imagine that everything he-who-must-not-be-named (Donald Trump) said was responded to with absolute silence. He wouldn’t be able to get anywhere in his power schemes, much less one of two remaining candidates for President of the United States.

Now, imagine that only those who are against Trump’s agenda completely ignored him and turned a blind eye. First off, he wouldn’t have as many supporters because not as many people would take him seriously.

That’s right. When people see themselves on one side, such as Republican, they know who to support based upon who the Democrats seriously disagree with. If Democrats simply looked at Trump with a lazy side glance as if he is a kid whining for a piece of candy in the grocery store, Republicans would have a lot less reason to take him seriously.

Or at least, perhaps we could elevate ourselves beyond the name-calling debauchery, that has been the characterizing debates this election cycle and start to have a real respectful discussion about these issues at hand.

People need silence in order to hear themselves, and some believe silence allows us to come in touch with our true selves. Silence is golden. It allows us to pay close attention to the activities of our inner world that we may come to better understand ourselves, as well as come to decide how we would like to be, what part of our inner world we would like to project to the outer world.

According to Steven Collins, visiting professor of my honors Buddhism class, the Buddhist uses silence to detach and release suffering from the world. The more chatter about ideas, the more we become attached to ideas and lose sight of the purpose of life. In response to the current political race, they would be totally appalled and shrug their shoulders.

Silence can be useful during arguments, gossip, conversation, time of confusion or distress. Make sure to take advantage of silence the next time you are in an empty home. 


Reach the columnist at ralydfor@asu.edu or follow @ralydford on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter. 


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.