Author Topic: The power of silence  (Read 3262 times)

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Just Lori

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The power of silence
« on: January 27, 2013, 05:01:25 PM »
One of my New Year's resolutions was to refrain from speaking (or in today's online world, posting) when I'm in a highly emotional state.  Emotions tend to turn off my brain-to-mouth filter, and I tend to make comments I regret later.  So, earlier this month when a family member sent me a accusatory Facebook message over something that I had very little to do with, I told myself that I wasn't going to post my angry reply, because I was too worked up over it.  Within 24 hours, she sent a note apologizing for her comments, and I then was able to play the benevolent role and accept her apology.

This afternoon, an acquaintance made a remark to me that had me seeing red.  I came home and told my husband about the remark, and he wanted to pick up the phone and give her a piece of his mind.  I said no, we're both too worked up over it, let's sit on it for a day or so.  I just received an email from her explaining why she said what she said.  She also did some major backtracking on the remark that touched on my nerves.

Please know, I'm not subscribing to the belief that if you ignore someone, they'll go away.  Rather, I'm thinking that silence creates an unexpected vacuum.  Most people expect an emotional reaction, and if you give them nothing, it takes the wind from their sails.

So, what do you think?   Is silence a polite response?  Has it ever been effective for you?

gramma dishes

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2013, 05:06:56 PM »
Let's put it this way.  Silence is never an incorrect response.   ;)

I think you have nailed it.  For a lot of us, what we might say in the heat of our anger could (and does) come back to bite us or at least escalates things. 

Silence is unexpected and I think, as you say, it sometimes does cause the person who instigates a situation to sit back and take a second listen to what they've said and come to their own conclusions that maybe they didn't handle things well.

It doesn't ALWAYS work, but I use silence a lot.  It may not necessarily always make things better, but so far for me at least, it has never made things worse.

oceanus

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2013, 05:52:03 PM »
For a long time Iíve been quite good at not immediately responding to inaccurate, unfair, or sometimes completely ridiculous off-the-wall comments and statements.

I donít do it to throw the other person off-balance.  I do it because I donít always trust my own emotions (i.e., my angry reply will be designed to sting), or I want to think about a response, or in some cases I have no intention of responding.  And Iím rarely waiting for an apology Ė whatís done is done and often what has been said canít be fixed.

sweetonsno

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2013, 07:00:36 PM »
I'm not sure I agree that silence creates a vacuum and the people in question feel compelled to apologize. I suspect that as is the case with you, it gives them time to digest the situation and respond rationally. While there are obviously people out there who try to pick fights and need the wind taken out of their sails, I don't think too many of them are the ones who will think on it and realize they were wrong. The ones who do take the time to apologize were probably not speaking maliciously, with the intention of hurting you, but speaking without thinking.

I think it's best to keep quiet when you're feeling emotional, not because you want them to "make the first move" but because you don't want to say something you regret.

Bijou

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2013, 09:07:13 PM »
One of my New Year's resolutions was to refrain from speaking (or in today's online world, posting) when I'm in a highly emotional state.  Emotions tend to turn off my brain-to-mouth filter, and I tend to make comments I regret later.  So, earlier this month when a family member sent me a accusatory Facebook message over something that I had very little to do with, I told myself that I wasn't going to post my angry reply, because I was too worked up over it.  Within 24 hours, she sent a note apologizing for her comments, and I then was able to play the benevolent role and accept her apology.

This afternoon, an acquaintance made a remark to me that had me seeing red.  I came home and told my husband about the remark, and he wanted to pick up the phone and give her a piece of his mind.  I said no, we're both too worked up over it, let's sit on it for a day or so.  I just received an email from her explaining why she said what she said.  She also did some major backtracking on the remark that touched on my nerves.

Please know, I'm not subscribing to the belief that if you ignore someone, they'll go away.  Rather, I'm thinking that silence creates an unexpected vacuum.  Most people expect an emotional reaction, and if you give them nothing, it takes the wind from their sails.

So, what do you think?   Is silence a polite response?  Has it ever been effective for you?
I think silence is a wonderful tool.  For one thing it breaks the cycle that leads to your saying something you later regret and also serves as a way of letting the speaker see his or her words hanging in the air without distraction.  I had a note on my desk that said. "Count to 10,000 before responding."  People got a kick out of it, knowing counting to ten is sometimes not a long enough pause.

Do you notice that you feel less powerless when you use it in the way you do?  I think it allows you (me) to walk away from a situation feeling good, rather than upset.
I've never knitted anything I could recognize when it was finished.  Actually, I've never finished anything, much to my family's relief.

Just Lori

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2013, 09:34:03 PM »
I think silence is a wonderful tool.  For one thing it breaks the cycle that leads to your saying something you later regret and also serves as a way of letting the speaker see his or her words hanging in the air without distraction.  I had a note on my desk that said. "Count to 10,000 before responding."  People got a kick out of it, knowing counting to ten is sometimes not a long enough pause.

Do you notice that you feel less powerless when you use it in the way you do?  I think it allows you (me) to walk away from a situation feeling good, rather than upset.

Yes!  I fear my two examples in the OP made it sound like I was seeking an apology, and that's not my intention.  I suppose I'm seeking a resolution, and my silence seems to speed it along.  It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that I don't want to say anything, at least not right away.  It's rather empowering.

ETA that I'm probably guilty of digging my own holes when I'm pulled into an emotional discussion.  If I stay silent at least for the time being, I don't run the risk of saying something stupid and making everything worse.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 09:36:03 PM by Just Lori »

oogyda

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2013, 08:21:02 AM »
The smart-alec in me has often cited this prayer as my mantra "Deity, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth."

There are definitely times when silence is best.  I'm currently dealing with a situation of my own that I am having to work very hard at keeping myself out of.  It's between two of my neices (they are sisters) and is being played out on facebook.  Normally, I wouldn't have a problem staying out of it, but this also involves my mother and an issue I've had words with both neices over. 

Your post came at a great time for me and serves as validation that I just need to mind my own business.
It's not what we gather along the way that matters.  It's what we scatter.

cicero

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2013, 08:27:43 AM »
I find that i often employ this technique, otherwise known as the scritzy coke rule.

and i don't think it's actually "ignoring" someone - because "saying nothing" or "postponing your reply" *is* an answer of sorts. i think that in situations of high emotions, it's better to wait before replying.


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Cami

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2013, 08:46:07 AM »
I really try to work on keeping my mouth shut when I'm too emotional/angry. I have yet to find that silence elicits any apparent remorse from the other person, however. My dh says that's because since I generally have a very thick skin, if I do take offense to something, it's because the other person intended the offense or they're so thickheaded that they never realize they've given offense -- in both cases, apologies are not forthcoming.

However, IRL, I generally do say something later to people who have given malicious offense because I've found that they tend to be bullies who, if unchecked, will continue on and escalate their behavior because they think they've found a perfect victim.

bopper

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2013, 10:37:49 AM »
also think of your response as pulling on your end of an emotional rope.  You can't have a tug of war if you drop your end of the rope.

Thipu1

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 11:10:13 AM »
I had this situation with a new and insecure Boss.  He wanted validation from his Boss and would send me very nasty emails about the slightest hint of rudeness he observed when I was dealing with Library patrons. 

I knew that I had done nothing wrong and didn't immediately respond although steam was starting to come out of my ears. 

Invariably, the next morning, he would come into work and apologize for the outburst. 

My lack of immediate response gave him time to think about the situation. 

Silence can be a very good thing.  Responding in the heat of the moment only escalates the problem. 

Scritzy's Coke Rule works.  Taking a walk around the block works.  Thinking about what the reason behind the altercation works. Anything that gives you a reason to sit back and relax before answering is good.   
 

Auntie Mame

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 11:54:52 AM »
I told my BF that if we are disagreeing about something and I abruptly turn and walk away Do not follow me.   It is because I am angry and emotional and do not want to say something i regret.  Give me five minutes to calm down and then we can resume the discussion.

I have yet to say something to him I have regretted later.
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heartmug

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 11:55:53 AM »
I think what you are doing is great.  Take time.  Gather your thoughts.  Cool down.  Not everything needs a response.

I am doing that right now with one SIL.  I used to "give it to her" (tell her exactly how I felt) now I just say nothing unless she asks a question directed at me.
The trouble is not that the world is full of fools, it's just that lightening isn't distributed right.  - Mark Twain

shivering

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2013, 12:39:05 PM »
Silence isn't necessarily the solution but it's an important tool. I've seen so many fights/bad relationships over silly things. The grudge isn't even over the initial issue anymore, it's due to all the nasty things that get said in the heat of the moment. Taking a step back often calms both parties down and can prevent the issue from escalating.


Bijou

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Re: The power of silence
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2013, 01:41:01 PM »
I think silence is a wonderful tool.  For one thing it breaks the cycle that leads to your saying something you later regret and also serves as a way of letting the speaker see his or her words hanging in the air without distraction.  I had a note on my desk that said. "Count to 10,000 before responding."  People got a kick out of it, knowing counting to ten is sometimes not a long enough pause.

Do you notice that you feel less powerless when you use it in the way you do?  I think it allows you (me) to walk away from a situation feeling good, rather than upset.

Yes!  I fear my two examples in the OP made it sound like I was seeking an apology, and that's not my intention.  I suppose I'm seeking a resolution, and my silence seems to speed it along.  It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that I don't want to say anything, at least not right away.  It's rather empowering.

ETA that I'm probably guilty of digging my own holes when I'm pulled into an emotional discussion.  If I stay silent at least for the time being, I don't run the risk of saying something stupid and making everything worse.
I didn't think you were seeking an apology, but if you have one coming, it's great that the other parties realized this.
I really like the feeling I get when I take the high road, and it sounds like that is what you are doing.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 02:42:50 PM by Bijou »
I've never knitted anything I could recognize when it was finished.  Actually, I've never finished anything, much to my family's relief.