Silence and Ideas

In 4 B.C., Herod Archelaus, a well-known politician and the Tetrarch of Judea, sat down in the chair of the equivalent of his local barbershop. “How would you like your hair trimmed?” asked the talkative barber.

Archelaus responded, “In silence.”

A lot can be said for silence. Silence gives you time to think about what you plan to say later in the day, thus improving communication skills. Silence encourages your companion to talk. Silence exercises the mind. Some of my best ideas have come to me in the silence of early morning as I do my regular walk through the streets of Fort Thomas.

Learn to practice silence. Plan a certain time of day for silence. Find a place in your home or work where you have privacy and can engage in a period of silence. When you are silent and let your mind go, you will sometimes remember a task that needs doing or you will think of a person whom you have not given attention to that will encourage you to give that person a call.

Often the silence will be a spiritual experience for you. You may think about God, or blessings you have that you have taken for granted. Trappist Thomas Merton said, “A man who loves God necessarily loves silence.”  Relaxing your body and giving yourself needed rest offers physiological benefits.

When I am in town, I usually spend a day a week in the Mercantile Library, located in downtown Cincinnati on the 11th floor of the Mercantile Building. This is far from the busy and talkative workforce that surrounds the facility. Often only a handful of people are present, and silence is an unwritten rule for all who enter.

Because of silence, I do more speech and sermon preparation and writing than I would in two days working in my office at home.

Consider silence one of your tools for improving the quality of your life. We pay respect to someone by having a moment of silence. Herman Melville said, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended to by silence.”

Embrace silence. Perhaps Simon and Garfunkel said it best in their song, “The Sound of Silence:”  “People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never share. And no one dared disturb the sound of silence.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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