Discover your best secret weapon
Silence is golden. Men of great wisdom think it better to be quiet as a strategic move. A person can talk too much, and when he does, he is often so busy talking that he forgets to listen.
“Better to remain silent and to be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
These words are often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but they’ve also been attributed to others: Maurice Switzer, Arthur Burns, John Maynard Keynes, Confucius, and even Anonymous.
Similar words are attributed to Mark Twain:
“The pause — that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.”
The feel is different, but the meaning is the same. When you speak less and listen more, you’re less likely to get caught up in the moment and come out looking like a fool or say something you will regret.
And, sometimes, silence is the best weapon you have. When under attack, the knee jerk reaction is to lash out, get back at the offender, to get even, or set the record straight. Sometimes it is best to pause and wait. And, in the moments of golden silence, you can see and note the actions and reactions of others.
Maybe you need to respond, and maybe you don’t, but if you react in the moment, in passion, emotion, and anger, you’ll likely make the situation worse than it already is. Sometimes the best option is to say nothing and wait.
Think of it this way: Someone launches an abusive, unwarranted, damaging attack. They do it to get under your skin. They want you to react. And, when you exercise power to say nothing, the other person is all angry with no reason to keep spewing hate. The other person wants you to do something to keep the ugly cycle going, but silence is an excellent way to say something without saying anything at all.
Silence is the best option.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Instead of responding, you can use silence to say:
- You’re not worth my time
- You’ve got it wrong
- I need to protect me
When attacks are unwarranted or irrational without the intent to seek positive discourse to understand, it is silence that becomes the best secret weapon. It says I’m not going to be drawn into something damaging. It’s not necessary to respond to invalid, slanted information.
Silence can also hurt relationships.
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph”. — Haile Selassie
There’s a time to speak up, usually when an injustice is being acted out, but be sure you have your facts straight. Go to the source and ask questions to determine the truth. You could have part of the story, or the information you have could be slanted or wrong. It helps to have the other person’s side of events. If you go on the attack first, you’ll shut down the chance to open dialogue.
Understanding is needed most in healthy relationships.
Sometimes siblings hurt each other. When one child perceives hurt from another child and goes on the attack instead of trying to understand the motives, it can quickly lead to a downward spiral.
Get to the heart of the matter:
- Say: That hurt my feelings.
- Ask: Why did you do that?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Do our goals conflict?
Sometimes disagreements happen between spouses. The same techniques are useful. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and feel what they feel and think about the situation from their point of view.
Get to the heart of the matter:
- It hurts when (you) __________.
- I feel ____________ when (you)____________.
Share your feelings. If the intent is different, the other person will probably say what I meant to say/do/accomplish was ________________.
Another way to begin meaningful communication is to tell a story. Open dialogue with: “The story I’m telling myself is…” and tell your side of the situation. Hopefully, the other person will share their story too, and everyone can get to a better place of understanding.
Don’t leave the situation there. Once you’ve found a resolution, develop tools to prevent the same thing from happening over and over.
Ask: What can we do next time?
Note how you react in times of stress and anxiety. Share those feelings. Your partner probably sees repeat actions. Assign actions to emotions and develop cues to help each other before situations get out of control.
Listen more than you speak. Let the other person finish his or her thought before jumping in. We are often too busy thinking about how to respond that we don’t meaningfully listen. When you speak, let your words have meaning. Leave out comments that jab at the other person and are meant to be hurtful or don’t have relevance.
Have an open mind and an open heart to communicate with love and understanding. When you understand the other person, you can build a bridge to anywhere. Advance meaningful relationships and learn to leave ones where no understanding can be reached.
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. — Proverbs 17:28
If you cannot hold your tongue, then bite it to keep unintended harm from slipping off of a forked tongue. Consider the self-inflicted sting a pleasurable pain to stop yourself from unintentionally hurting people you love. Don’t be like a reptile who smells with a forked tongue. Speak with love as often as possible. After all, isn’t love a better language?