Silence can be a soothing instance or a boring one depending on the situation and purpose of silence. Imagine going outside and taking a walk along a busy downtown street in the middle of the rush hour. All you hear is the noise from the nearly incessant honking of vehicles and their engines revving, eager to go on and move towards their destinations. You would find yourself relieved in the silence of your own room when you arrive home and shut out the noise from the busy street.
Silence can be very unnerving especially if it happens in a room full of people. I remember one college professor of mine who used this technique in getting his students to participate in class. We were very noisy chatting with each other and doing non-productive things while our professor was busy writing the day’s lesson on the board. He turned to face the class and the chattering slowly died down. Our professor then asked us a question to which no one had an immediate answer. Instead of pointing out someone from the class to answer, he waited. The silence was deafening. It felt like the walls around us suddenly expanded and moved further apart. I could not bear it any longer so I slowly tried raising my hand but one of my classmates beat me to it. Finally! This one classmate of mine courageously broke the silence and gave his answer. The answer happened to be incorrect, but it then sparked a lively and free discussion that got us all engaged.
Most people dread silence. Silence can trigger our imaginations and provoke illusory perceptions. If harnessed, the power of being silent can control these negative reactions to create positive value.
In a classroom environment, silence can move students to attempt to answer questions. As I recalled from my experience back in college, I learned that some people have different tolerance levels when it comes to silence. If you can endure prolonged silence once you’ve asked a question, and wait far beyond the point that feels comfortable (like what our professor did), someone will crack before you do and try to answer your question.
Silence can make you more effective at your job. As a writer I prefer working in a quiet and silent environment. I can focus on my writing and accomplish more. Several studies support this notion by finding that being silent when working heightens concentration and hand-eye coordination, as in a recent study conducted on the efficiency of data encoders in different working environments.
Being silent develops your ability to listen effectively. Few people can do it well. Why? Because most of us do listen but do so as a way of waiting until it’s our turn to speak or as a way of formulating our response. As Christians, we are encouraged in Psalms 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God.” He wants us to be still and listen to that still small inner voice that will show us the direction we should go. Indeed, there is power in being silent.