Five Thought Leaders on the Power of Silence
Silence has power, yet few think of it as a power anyone can exercise. In fact, a silent look can convey far more than words. These days, with our constant exposure to media, memes, and small talk on social media, silence seems to frighten people. Yet, it is in silence that we get things done, find ideas and go inwardly to create.
“Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.” Publilius Syrus
One of the easiest ways to get respected is to hold your voice and thoughts at bay, only sharing those that stand up to inner scrutiny. The other night a couple on a date, probably a first date, sat next to me. The guy never stopped talking and even in the spaces between the things he said, that he found funny, he laughed semi-hysterically just a little too long before starting up his next bon mot.
Barely a pause for breath in there and never a question for his date, nor a space where she might have responded. She was visibly uncomfortable and so was I, for her. With his constant nervous chatter and wheezing laughter he was revealing himself as a fool. It was sad.
“The temple of our purest thoughts is silence.” Sarah J. Hale
Where do we go when we meditate, or find ourselves in deep focus while doing a task? We go into a well of silence. When we find this place, we find it is infinite and beyond thought. It recharges our internal creative batteries like nothing else. When I hear the phrase ‘forest bathing’, the Japanese concept of refreshing our souls in nature, I always think of silence, maybe broken by wind in tree branches, a temple.
“Silence is the language of God; It is also the language of the heart.” Dag Hammerskjöld
I do not believe in God but I do believe silence is a language. Buddhism’s central tenet is that all of us are awakened beings that have fallen asleep in this world. In fact Buddha’s name means The Awakened One. One of his most famous sermons is the Flower Sutra where he simply held up a lotus blossom, silently. Speaking a language we all are born speaking.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain
Twain famously had little patience with fools and zealots, both known for their unending mindless repeating of the words of wiser men and women, words that likely got their power from the silence surrounding them
“It is as important to cultivate your silence power as it is your word power.” William James
The theme here is silence but the real theme is its power. We have spent four years with a leader whose inner voice was never silent and who increasingly shared it with anyone listening via his endless tweets. When that medium was removed from him, we collectively shared a sigh of relief and, maybe, a moment of enjoying the power of that silence.
“Silence is the only language we all speak.” Brett Banfe
Yes, I added a sixth quote because I want to say something about this universal language. If silence is a language, it is the language we speak when we create. Most creation takes place as a solitary activity, an internal place we go to find inspiration. When I write, the world disappears and time seems to slow. When that is interrupted, that work stops and waits until I return to that place, that silent place.