The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
Six Stages of Life Psychologists Advise to Answer with Silence
This article has previously been published before.
Have you ever experienced a moment when words seem to lose their power, and silence becomes the most eloquent response? There are times when silence can speak volumes, and mastering the art of silent communication is an important life skill that can shape our relationships, our decision-making process, and even our self-perception.
Take, for example, the witness account of a friend of mine who found himself in a heated quarrel with his spouses. The tug-of-war of words reached a point of rupture, where any further conversation would only add fuel to the fire. In the heat of the moment, he chose silence.
“I simply stopped arguing and looked at her. It was as if time stood still, and I could see the rage draining out of her face. The silence was deafening, but it was also healing.”
His experience demonstrates how choosing not to retaliate with words can transform a hostile situation. It’s a clear reminder that we have the option to pause before we speak or react, allowing us to navigate difficult conversations more effectively. In these moments, silence isn’t about winning or losing an argument—it’s about understanding and respect.
So how can you tell when it’s best to hold your tongue? It might seem tricky at first, especially if you’re accustomed to expressing yourself verbally. But let’s delve into some signs that suggest it might be time for a tactical retreat into silence.
1. The escalating argument
Ever found yourself in a heated argument that continually rises in temperature? It’s amazing how each retort can stoke the flames, bringing about a conflagration of words that scorch the air. In these situations, choosing silence instead of another fiery comeback can significantly cool the atmosphere. Silence not only prevents the situation from worsening but also allows for a moment of reflection and understanding. It provides a pause in the heat of the moment, giving both parties a chance to de-escalate and find common ground, ultimately leading to a more productive resolution.
2. The unproductive discussion
How about those frustrating conversations that go in circles, like a ropy whirlpool of disagreement? Here, silence as an answer could serve as an anchor, pulling the discussion back to the center and providing a much-needed reset. By staying silent, you allow the opportunity for others to express their thoughts without interruption. This can break the cycle of unproductivity and lead to a more focused and effective exchange of ideas. Silence as an answer, in this context, becomes a powerful tool to steer the discussion in a more productive direction.
3. The moment of disrespect
Then there are those times when you’re confronted with disrespectful remarks. The verbal jabs sting, don’t they? Instead of launching grenades of your own, perhaps standing silently can shield you from the further onslaught while preserving your dignity. Silence as an answer in the face of disrespect is a display of self-control and strength. It sends a clear message that you refuse to engage in disrespectful behavior. It can also prompt the other party to reflect on their actions and potentially lead to a more respectful and constructive conversation.
4. The emotional overflow
Emotional outbursts can be like a sudden downpour. The words drench everything, leaving you soaked in feelings. Silence as an answer, in these instances, can be akin to a sturdy umbrella — providing respite and allowing for emotional clarity. When emotions run high, speaking impulsively can often lead to saying things you might regret later. Silence allows you to regain composure and assess your feelings before responding. It offers a moment of self-care, helping you communicate more effectively and empathetically once the emotional storm has passed.
5. The uninvited intrusion
Have you ever felt someone inch into your personal boundaries during a conversation? It can feel unnerving, right? Perhaps, here, silence can be your fortress — protecting your personal space and deterring unwelcome visitors. Silence serves as a boundary-setting tool. It conveys that certain topics or intrusions are not acceptable. This can help maintain your comfort and security during a conversation, ensuring that your personal boundaries are respected.
6. The encounter with ignorance
Sometimes you stumble upon perspectives that are fueled by ignorance more than knowledge. It may feel like talking to a brick wall, doesn’t it? Rather than throwing yourself against it, silence can be your ladder over it. In the face of ignorance, silence can be a strategic choice. It allows you to preserve your energy and mental well-being by not engaging in futile arguments. Instead, it can prompt self-reflection in the other party, potentially opening the door to more informed and constructive discussions in the future.
Silence is a potent tool to navigate certain challenging conversations. It’s a way to exercise control, maintain respect, encourage understanding, and foster healing.