Thirty Days of Love, Day 3: Embrace Silence
Date: Wednesday, January 18 – Embrace Silence.
Staff member: Office Administrator Deborah Neisel-Sanders
Description: Making room for our own thoughts, and space for others’ thoughts, is crucial to standing on the side of love. Today, from morning to night, speak in a gentle voice, sparingly, allowing for silence as much as possible. Note how this feels.
Today’s question: Does speaking gently change the nature of your conversations, or how people interact with you?
EMBRACE SILENCE – AND OTHERS
“Embrace silence?” As soon as I saw the title I knew this would be a tough one for me. I’m chatty and exuberant and rarely miss an opportunity to share my big, bad opinion. I have the distinction of working with a terrific team of people who enjoy laughs and banter and freely take delight in each other’s turn of phrase.
How would I ever manage this without duct-tape?
Then I read the description: Speak gently and sparingly. It didn’t say don’t speak at all.
I managed to try it for a few minutes at a time and discovered how infrequently most other people will make it about you without your input. Was my vocalization in social circles part of feeding my need for attention, for assurance that I mattered? Not very charitable. And not very conducive to making space for my own thoughts, let alone others – especially those from historically marginalized populations who may not have what I do: the privilege of feeling free to speak up.
I’m still learning about the strength inherent in gentleness. Since I usually have more passion than patience, I can get pretty fierce when speaking out about anything I feel strongly about, like anti-oppression. But being a UU has taught me I can trust the process, that my voice will be heard and considered no matter how I say it, and that I must afford others the same respect, no matter how much I may (at first) think they are wrong. (Usually I discover that we are both right.)
So “embrace silence” doesn’t really mean go like a monk and take a vow! It means leaving breathing-room between your words and behind your convictions. Think about the motivations and assumptions that affect what comes out of your mouth. It means giving other people the space and encouragement and safety to share, too! If you think about it, it’s more like conversational generosity. Now, that I can learn to do.