Since I retired a few weeks ago from the university, I don’t talk as much. I don’t lecture up to twelve hours a week. I spend more time in silence; I have more time to think about my speeches and sermons. I spend a lot of time writing and preparing presentations in the quietness of the Cincinnati Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati or in the carrels of the Northern Kentucky University library.
Even though my careers center on talking, there is less stress when I don’t talk as much. I don’t have to worry about saying too much or saying something I might regret because I did not think it through carefully enough. Not talking as much gives me more time to do other things. I find that I observe more closely and ponder more deeply.
Ausonius said, “He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak.” Solomon in his wisdom made the point that there is a time to be silent. I think all of us could communicate better if we spent more time in silence.
Use silence to underscore what you do say. When I pause a moment, the person I’m talking to looks at me expectantly. (Unless it’s my wife; she’s more likely to take that opportunity to toss in her two cents worth.)
Practice important conversations by going over mentally what you plan to say. Spend private time each day either anticipating your responsibilities for the day or pondering what you learned that day before you retire for the evening.
I wish our leaders would spend less time on camera talking about issues and spend more time behind closed doors thinking and studying issues. The decisions might be of higher quality.
We pay the ultimate respect by a moment of silence. We honor a person’s life by a period of silence. We can be surprised to the point of silence.
When I am silent, I learn more; I find out more about others and myself. I observe more, and I am less stressed. I have taught that in my listening seminars for years, but now I am even more aware of the truth of the importance of listening.
The title of this piece is just part of the idiom. The entire quotation is “Speech is silver; silence is golden.” Maybe we should all seek a little more gold and a little less silver.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively.
Contact Steve today for priority scheduling!
(859) 441-6520 or email info@SBoyd.com