Quiet Time

Earlier this year, I came down with a bad cold that seemed to concentrate in my throat and eventually caused me to lose my voice altogether.  The doctor told me to rest my voice as much as possible, which essentially meant that I shouldn’t talk unless I absolutely had to for the next few days.  I’m the sort of person who usually has a lot to say, but luckily the laryngitis made it so difficult to talk that staying silent turned out to be much easier than I had thought.  And the added bonus was that I learned a few things during that time I was required to keep my big mouth (mostly) shut.

The first thing I learned is that sometimes it’s best to pretend not to notice certain things, like, say, how very happy my husband looked when he heard that the doctor had told me to quit talking for a couple of days.  I could have pondered on just why he seemed to believe my laryngitis was such good news for him, but I decided it was probably in the best interest of our marriage if I didn’t go too far down that particular road.

The second thing I learned is that it’s so much easier to listen to someone, and I mean really listen to what someone is saying, when I know that I’m not going to have to say anything back.  Because usually when someone is talking to me, a part of me is listening and another part of me is already thinking about how I’m going to respond.  Which means that I’m only giving that person  part of my attention.  And it’s so much easier to understand someone else’s point of view when we actually shut up long enough to hear what they’re trying to tell us.

The third (and best) thing I learned is the value of silence.  Once I was in the position of having to decide whether or not saying something was worth the risk to my inflamed vocal cords, I became much more comfortable with not voicing every thought and idea that happened to cross my mind.  I learned how to simply enjoy my own thoughts without always feeling the need to share them with others.  I discovered how nice it can be so simply be with someone and to sit in companionable silence.  Honestly, during the time of my enforced silence I felt calmer and more at peace than I had in a long time.

This is not to say that silence is always a good thing, because obviously it isn’t.  Talking is an important form of communication and one of the main ways we humans connect with each other.  But for someone like me–who tends to talk a little bit too much–learning to be quiet was an enlightening experience.   I hope that I can remember the lessons I learned from being silent and continue to give my mouth a rest from time to time as I move forward.  Because if I do forget, then my only hope will be another case of laryngitis…..

102 thoughts on “Quiet Time

  1. Haha! Oh, you sound like someone else I know very intimately!! It is an ongoing challenge for me to really listen intently – just to listen fully. The other person can even sense that they have more of our undivided attention. So here’s to those of us who can learn a lesson about silence and listening and then know that we’ll need to pay attention to that lesson from now on!

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  2. When I’m around people anymore I’ve gotten to a point where I tend to try to say as little as possible because like you mentioned, it’s easier to listen than to talk. Plus more fun, really. The things I learn!

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  3. Anne, I’m glad you’re much better now and what interesting reflections on the value and strengths of silence … just sad you had to be poorly. It is easy to not listen properly and I think we are all guilty of this at some time. My favourite moments of silence are out on walks, when all of a sudden the magic of the birds song will strike me! Your post brings to mind ‘Sound of Silence’ song … and that’s now going round my mind! Take care and keep well! Xx

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    • I love that song too, Annika! And yes, when we can remember to be silent, even when we’re alone, we notice so much more of what is going on around us, and that’s a gift. Plus, when we’re silent in the presence of others, that allows us to really hear them and that’s a gift to both of us.

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    • That’ a bad habit of mine as well, Deb. Which is why my laryngitis turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Conversations take on a whole new meaning when I can stay quiet until the other person is actually done talking. It’s something we have to work at learning, I think, but it’s so worth the effort. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. I really think it depends on the type of conversation you’re having with someone. If a friend is really ranting and needs to vent, there’s no need to interrupt with sage advice. It’s important to listen. But, if it is indeed supposed to be a conversation, then there should be a back and forth. I listen, you talk, vice versa. And really listen, like you said, not just plan your next words. And most importantly, is a polite conversation. I don’t like when it becomes interruptive, cause then you’re never able to finish your sentence. I know not all words of mine are profound, but it’s frustrating when I can’t finish my sentence. I have a friend who does this…… Good post. Glad you’re feeling better.

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    • Good point, Mimi! There is indeed a time to speak, and real conversations do require both talking and listening. But like you said, it is so annoying when we don’t feel as if we’re being listened to, and when we’re interrupted before we’re even done talking. So I’m trying very hard to stop doing that to other people…the first step was realizing that I DID do that….and it’s been sort of liberating. Like I’m finally seeing that it’s not my job to steer the whole conversation, or have all the answers. I can actually just listen, and then respond when the other person is done talking, and respond to what they actually said. Trust me, it’s a skill I’m still working on!

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  5. Vital points and this post can be a constant reminder 🙂

    Meditation taught me these essential lessons … giving another our undivided attention really is the most precious gift possible 🙂 Hearing their POV, not expressing every little thought and never making a major decision in less than 24 hours … time to consider all repercussions 🙂

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  6. I struggle with talking a bit too much, especially with my husband. Every once in a while he asks if I can give him some quiet time. I used to be offended, but now I’m just grateful since it reminds me that, it’s good to be reminded that rambling on isn’t always the best form of connection. Companionable silence is good too. I appreciate your perspective.

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    • Is your husband usually a quiet person? Mine is, and I think that’s where I got in the habit of talking so much around him…as if I had to do the talking for both of us. And in some ways, I do. But I also need to remember to be silent around him as well, so I can give him both the space he needs and the chance to articulate his own thoughts. I think it’s a balancing act, don’t you?

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  7. Really glad I saw this, Ann. It’s Lent now and I’ve been getting signs that God wants me to fast from my tongue – no mean feat, I assure you, for someone who wags her tongue like a dog does his tail. But perhaps you’ve given me an idea – I just need to somehow imagine myself having laryngitis, convince myself even, and maybe shutting up’ll come a little easier.
    Sigh, it’s just the start of Lent and I only remember I should have been silent when the day is done. The next day, no matter what I tell myself, I forget the moment I reach work.

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    • Oh, please don’t be so hard on yourself! It is hard for those of us who are naturally chatty to learn to be silent. But once we can, it’s a gift that we truly enjoy. It’s like we get to take a break from trying to make everything okay for everyone else all the time….and in the process, we learn what others have to say as well. Good luck on your Lenten journey. Sometimes I think the greatest think Lent teaches us is patience and perseverance!

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  8. what a great lesson in the power of silence and being truly present 🙂 I’m just getting over something similar. It’s been two weeks and still a squeaky voice. Tis the season I guess! Germ free virtual healing hugs!

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    • I hope you are fully healed soon, Jodi! And it is absolutely the season for illness…almost everyone I know is either sick or struggling to overcome some sort of illness. And I’m sending a virtual, germ-free hug right back to you, too!

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  9. Haha! You seem sharp enough to remember a lesson learned without having to get laryngitis again! You struck a cord with me when you said you decided not to question your husband’s response. Lol oh so many times I choose to decide the same. Happy listening!

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    • You know, I went to a wedding shower last weekend where all the guests were asked to give some advice to the bride-to-be. One woman said “just learn to block it out!” We all laughed, but seriously, she knew what she was talking about!

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  10. The line about the happy look on your husband’s face is classic..:) But you’re so right, and I think you spoke about this in a different way in a recent post, that even during difficult times you have to accept and learn. When something is taken away from us, something else is placed before us. It’s our opportunity to learn something new. Glad you’re feeling better, Ann.

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    • Thanks, George! And you have a good memory, because this is a theme I’ve written about before. I guess because it’s something I’m still struggling to learn. Not just the gift of silence, which is huge, but the fact that when something is taken away, it’s often replaced with something that is just as valuable. We just need to be open to the change!

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    • Yeah, my pride did take just a little bit of hit on that one, LOL! But you’re right, it’s what we can’t have that is often what we want the most. Which is why I was surprised to discover that I actually kind of liked my period of enforced silence. Who knew?

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  11. Listening is a great art. We must focus completely on the other person and silence our need to respond immediately. I often have to stop myself from wanting to talk too quickly. I know how deeply I appreciate when someone really listens to me…listens to my heart speaking out loud. The greatest gift we can give one another when we communicate is to really hear what they have to say…not what we think we want them to say, but what they are really saying. I work on this all the time. I want to fix things for people, but often all they want is to be heard.

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    • Oh, Linda, you sound just like me! When someone starts to tell me about a problem, I immediately start thinking about how I can help them fix it…which means I’ve also stopped giving them my undivided attention and stopped truly listening. And the sad thing is, often they don’t want me to fix it at all. They just want to be heard. I’ve come to believe that most people just want to be heard!

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  12. I love how you’ve turned around what must have been a rough time into a time of enlightenment. Couldn’t help but laugh at your hubby’s happiness over you needing vocal rest 😂 You’re right about the value of silence and of really listening to others. There are quite a few people that I think actually deserve a case of laryngitis (and not you!) but they’d also need a case of fingergitis so they can’t type or ‘troll’ online for a while either! xx

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    • That’s a good point, Caz! Sometimes talking too much isn’t nearly as bad as typing too much, especially when someone is using their keyboard to attack others. (Why do we see so much of that these days?) And yes, there are definitely times when laryngitis can be a good thing!

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  13. I have always admired people who I would deem to be good listeners, not feeling the need to interrupt or add their point of view but instead, really listening!

    I agree, that remaining silent is not always a good thing but I think we could all benefit from truly listening a wee bit more.

    Hope your voice has returned & you are feeling much better!

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    • Thanks, Lynn! I am feeling much better now and am able to talk just fine (although my hubby isn’t looking nearly so happy these days….) And I agree, the people who are good at really listening are a gift to the rest of us and should be admired. Not to mentioned serves as role models to people like me, who are still struggling to learn to listen more than talk!

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  14. Loved this post Ann! If I had this diagnosis it would be Bomi’s dream come true! Seriously, I have worked on this all of my life and probably always well. And I think our boys inherited the problem. Every day when they would leave for school we would say “Eyes and ears open, mouth shut!”. Don’t think it worked! You, however are a great listener! Hope your voice has returned!

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    • Oh, Thanks, Louise! You are a much better listener than I am, trust me on that. And I love the advice you gave your boys…that’s something every parent should tell their children, I think.

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  15. A fellow named Abraham Kaplan was the first to develop the concept of the ‘duologue.’ It’s quite different from dialogue — the giving and taking, speaking and listening of real conversation. I still remember his description of the perfect duologue as two television sets turned on and facing one another. I’ve been in conversations like that, I’m sorry to say. I’m trying to get better at listening, too — I’d hate to be compared to a television set!

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    • I’ve not heard that term before, but wow, is it accurate! So many people simply talk at each other without listening to, and really responding to, what others say. And I know I’ve been guilty of it more times than i care to admit. But I’m working on it, because you’re right: I don’t want to be compared to a tv either!!

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  16. Hi Ann, I have been away from blogging for awhile, and have missed your weekly dose of wisdom. I am always impressed by your way of looking at the positive side of life, even while sporting a nasty cold.

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  17. This sounds only too familiar – I also had laryngitis some years ago: it was awful! But then I also noticed the positive aspects of silence and think I’ve become a better listener due to this experience. 😊
    I hope you’re feeling much better again, Ann – not only for your sake but also for your husband’s. 😉

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