The Sound of Silence

IMG_0886.jpgLike most people, I have lots of opinions on just about everything, and I’m only too happy to share them, usually in much more detail than anyone cares to hear.  I grew up in the sixties and seventies, when we were encouraged to “let it all hang out” in “rap sessions” (remember when “rap” didn’t refer to a musical genre?) and I guess I took that lesson to heart a little bit too much.  So believe me,  I really do understand why so many people feel the need to constantly express themselves in almost any situation they happen to be in.  It’s just that I’ve come to realize that there are times when it’s much, much better not to communicate just exactly what we are thinking and feeling.

There are so many ways in which silence can be the best response.  There’s the little things, like when a friend makes what I think is an unfortunate fashion choice, and I’m thinking, “Gee, that outfit emphasizes all the wrong things.”  If we’re not in a dressing room where my friend is still choosing whether or not to buy that particular item of clothing, that’s a thought that is best left unexpressed.  Being a good friend means not letting every petty thought that flits across my brain actually come out of my mouth.

And then there’s Facebook, where I check in daily to make sure I don’t miss out on something important, like a photo of someone’s meal or the latest cute puppy video.  Each time I scroll down my newsfeed, I’m sure to see a post about some hot-button topic that I think is completely and totally wrong.  Even though Facebook thoughtfully provides a comment section inviting me to say just that, I refrain.  Because while I’ve seen far too many heated arguments on Facebook, I have never yet seen anyone change his or her mind just because someone took the time to tell them they were wrong…on-line, no less, where everybody can see it.  Go figure.

The higher the stakes, the harder it is to remain silent, at least for me.  When a friend or relative is telling me about an important problem, my natural reaction is to speak up right away, telling them exactly what they need to do to make things right.  Usually, that’s not at all helpful to the person with the problem.  They need me to listen and provide a safe sounding board while they figure out exactly what it is they want to do about their problem, not jump in and tell them what to do.  Sometimes unsolicited advice just makes things harder, like if I say, “dump the cheating jerk,” when what my friend really wants to do is figure out a way to salvage her relationship.  In that cases, my advice just makes her feel judged, not supported, and I’ve only added to her problems.

I am, by nature, both a talker and a fixer, and in many situations, that’s actually a good thing.  But slowly, I’m learning that there are also many times when I need to stay silent, to keep my advice and my opinions to myself.  There are times when I need to simply allow people to believe things I disagree with, to make choices that I think aren’t wise and to live their lives exactly the way they want to, without the “benefit” of my wisdom.  In short, I need to do my best to keep my lips zipped unless I actually hear those magic words, “and what do you think?”


26 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence

  1. Haha… Your post are always so fun to read. I’m learning to restrain my opinions as well. Unless it’s in the form of a blog post in which case I’m trying to get stuff off my chest (relieving emotional tension) or trying to make sense of what’s running through my mind. But, otherwise I realize people don’t really want or need opinions even when they ask at times. They just want support and reassurance that they’re not alone and no one is judging them ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Personally, I think it’s okay to state opinions in a blog, because its understood that if you write a blog, you get to write about what you want. It’s different that telling a person what to do, or arguing politics with someone on Facebook. And I agree that even people who ask for my opinion may not really want to hear it! You’re right: support and reassurance is what they are after, and that’s what I’m trying to learn to give! Thanks,Deanne!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, forgot about rap sessions. Your post touched a cord with me because I don’t filter enough. I’m much better than I used to be, but even when being asked “What do you think,” I’m pretty sure people don’t really want a totally unfiltered, honest answer.

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  3. Sometimes less is more, right. As we’ve talked about before, I always thought that most relationships survive because of what people don’t say, rather than what they do say. It’s okay to just listen, but our need to speak and give advice sometimes takes over. Great post, Ann..:)

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    • I think listening, rather than talking, doesn’t come naturally to many of us. But we learn how to do it as we go along, probably because we can’t help but notice how much more helpful we really are when we listen more and talk less. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, absolutely right. And it’s a lesson that seems to take a long time after learning it, to actually put into practice! Many times I’ve had the reaction of “but don’t you thik that…” and stopped myself from saying it, usually to a friend who hadn’t asked for either advice or criticism. Listening is an art in itself.. I find it much easier to do in person, face to face with someone than online, where the usual body languge clues are missing.

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    • Me, too. The problem with online communication is that its so easy to misinterpret the other person. But the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to simply listen, really listen, to other people. I’m still working on it!

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  5. I have been told I am a good “listener”. I hope so. I strive to try to truly listen to others, because I want to be heard, too, when I am speaking, however,……….like you, I’m also a “talker” and a “fixer”. Particularly with my kids. I’m a Mom! How can I not be? I do still listen, but………I don’t always see the signs that say, “Mom, I don’t want you to try to fix it. Just listen.” So that I am working on. I am getting there. I won’t lie. As a Mom I want to help “fix”, but as an adult I recognize my kids need me to back off sometimes.

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    • I had a friend who used to ask her kids, “Do you want my advice, or do you just want me to listen?” before they started telling her about a problem. That way, she knew how to respond. I wish I had thought of that! It’s so hard not to try to “fix” their issues!

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  6. I was bullied online too many times after speaking my mind. Now I realize it’s just not worth it. If I thought I could change someone’s mind, I might try. But I know that’s not going to happen. So I made a promise to myself not to argue in cyberspace. It has worked out well for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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