Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Sounds of Silence

I am fluent in silence. It's one of the things I learned from my big sisters. With four of us, and me being the youngest, I always had older, more experienced competition.

I remember when we were kids and my grandmother died. We went up for the funeral--I think I was ten years old at the time--and my aunt and uncle were there. Someone, I don't remember who, it might have been one of my sisters, made an observation about the "youngest sibling." My uncle, the "baby of the family," didn't say much. In fact, he rarely spoke in a group setting, but he was very conversant away from the crowd.

Likewise, I'm more likely to have a meaningful conversation with someone one-on-one than I am in a group. Conditioned response. This is something I had to overcome in my professional career. I had a dear friend who would recommend me for committees because I had such good ideas, but when I went to the committee, I didn't speak up. She called me out on that, saying nobody would ever hear me if I didn't say anything. So I fought against years of listening and observing and made a conscious effort to contribute to the group conversation. Guess what? They promoted me. And you know what they told me? Make sure you listen to what other people have to say when you're developing talent. In other words, don't speak. Go figure. Yes, I learned how to balance when to speak and when to stay silent. For the most part. Funny thing about using your voice, once you speak up, sometimes its hard to stop!

There are many days where I don't say much. I don't feel the need to hear my voice in every conversation. It makes some people uneasy, people who don't know me well, but as my daughter once observed, that's just my way. There are days when you can't shut me up, especially if I've been silent for days in a row.

I greatly value the conversations I have with my family and friends, but in the silence, I hear what people say. There is time to reflect. Time to appreciate someone else's point of view.

As the titled song says, I write my books in silence. If I don't share them (according to the song), that makes me a fool. If you read my words, I might teach you. I might reach you. Like my dear friend said, if I don't say anything, nobody will ever hear me, and I speak best "on paper." At the very least, my books give us something to talk about to break the silence once in a while.


  1. After years of teaching, I guess I'm too used to "speaking up." Good reminder to stop and listen more.

    1. I did well in speech classes. I’m not “afraid” to speak up, just not conditioned to do so, I guess!