Breaking The Silence

My Dad recently got back from a holiday to Italy in which he probably covered more of Rome in the time available than anyone else has throughout the city’s long history.

Of the things you should probably be feeling during a walk round the Sistine Chapel, amusement probably isn’t it.  However, he was amused by the fact that the near silence was regularly broken by a request for silence over a tannoy system!

My only personal amusing of tale of silence recently has been a lack of it.  Anyone who has done teleconferences at work has probably heard that old chestnut “please go on mute if you’re not talking” to eliminate un-necessary background noise.

I was on a call the other day in which I was talking and so wasn’t on mute, when someone on the other end of the phone queried the disturbances they could hear from my office.

“Sorry,” I replied.  “That’s Winston, she’s completely the other side of the office and doing her own meeting.”  [Winston isn’t her real name, or female isn’t his actual gender!]

Winston’s voice tends to carry.  She is also incapable of not making noise by not speaking, whether it’s noisily eating at his desk or tapping something pretty hard against the wooden desk.  They’re the sort of noises that I’m sure a lot of people make; I know I have a habit of clicking a biro if I have one handy.  Most people, though, don’t make it quite so obvious.

Silence in conversation is another matter entirely.  I’m actually fortunate enough that I don’t think I’ve ever had an awkward date silence (probably courtesy of not being on many dates!) but I have had one at work where the guy would stare at you for what felt like an eternity, presumably to prompt you to say something else.

My boss dealt with this by having a staring match.  I got paranoid and checked whether there was something behind me that he might have been looking at.  Given that there wasn’t, I just got on with my work on the assumption that the conversation was finished.

Sometimes staying silent is good though, and shouldn’t be seen as being awkward.  It can show that you’re listening, and people want to be heard.  It also shows a lot of self-control to not interrupt and jump in too quickly.

But this leads me on to my final anecdote of silence.  I remember having a conversation with someone about feels.  One of the strangest things was when she said to me, “Give me a minute to think about that” and proceeded to look at the table in silence for a while.

When someone fills an awkward silence, it can give you an insight in to what they are really thinking.  When you’re having a conversation about feelings, asking for silence does the opposite.  It makes one feel that a response is being calculated and, in the circumstances, I don’t really think that’s the best thing.

It might work in the Sistine Chapel, but in other instances it might be better to take a leaf out of Winston’s book.

Thought I’d find it easier
Under lock, chain and key
Thought I’d find it easier
To just keep you to me
When the wisdom and the patience
Of the world’s wasted on me
That’s when I shut down my relationships
Watch them floating out to sea

I understand that it never ends
She’s waiting round every corner; round every bend
And it hurts to know that I won’t know if you knew how the summer went
I understand silence

I understand that it never ends
She’s waiting round every corner; round every bend
When you’re scared and lost don’t let it all build up
Break the silence

Someone to call a best friend
Someone to be there when it ends
When you’re scared and lost don’t let it all build up
Break the silence

Silence by The Maccabees

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