“People will talk” – and after watching a night of lifestyle TV, I am reminded of this fact. People will talk – all the time. Okay, so perhaps TV might be a little dull if no-one said anything, but so many of our communication methods now – particularly TV and social media – pressure us into talking even when we really have nothing to say. We have lost the fine art of saying nothing.
Being quiet is not a skill that is acknowledged or encouraged. In social situations, quiet people usually feel awkward, and like they have to fill in the silences with lively small talk. It’s often not enough to just be part of the group by quietly observing and simply being there. Gaps in the conversation must be filled in as quickly as possible.
I remember when I was first married, going to a restaurant with my husband and watching an older couple who sat down, ate their meal, paid and left, hardly saying a word to each other throughout the whole meal. At the time we said “I hope we don’t get to that stage, where we have nothing to say to each other – how boring their relationship must be!” Now I see that perhaps their relationship was so close that they were able to sit in companionable silence, without the need for words.
Comfortable, companionable silence is a precious thing. It’s restful. It allows space for thoughts to wander, for imagining, for being in the present moment. When we are freed from the tyranny of having to speak, we are able to listen and observe. Our words become less constant babble, and more a way of connecting.
Learning to sit in this silence with others is good, and so is learning to sit in silence with ourselves. We are just as good at filling our own heads and lives with ceaseless noise and activity, allowing little space for quietness and stillness.
Let’s regain the fine art of saying nothing.