I arrived at my friend’s bedside, shaken to see her so small and fragile; the cancer has taken such a hold in the few short months since we last saw each other.
Such a deep friendship and connection, her eyes sharing feelings she was unable to express in words. I’m so very tired and it’s so hard, she said after some minutes, the effort was too great and she slept awhile. Peaceful in the knowledge that I would stay by her side, the silence spoke for itself. We have so much to say, yet even in the quiet, words are finding their way into our hearts. We know where and when we met, the times we moved countries together, the shared joy of our childrens’ births. The blessing of a common thread, our daughters sharing the same birth dates. The yearning for more time, the unfinished business.
I have been in this same hospital ward before farewelling another dear friend, and I am reminded of the power of silence at these life changing times.
Which gets me thinking about the even more powerful impact of silence in our everyday lives, as we go about our ‘living’.
It is said we are conversationally intelligent when we follow a golden rule of speaking 30 percent of the time, and listening 70 percent of the time. A communication ratio that allows others the opportunity to fully express themselves, and the chance for us to embrace the quiet space that enables mindful and attentive listening.
Emotions are neuropeptides that provide us with the information we need to better understand situations and respond empathetically. How often do we miss the emotion and feelings being expressed in peoples’ eyes and body language because we were too busy talking and lost those non-verbal gems hanging in the silence?
In both personal and professional leadership, we read that self-awareness is key. The trick of tuning into ourselves and others so that we alert our senses to the important cues, both verbal and non-verbal. When we’re fully emotionally tuned in, we have all the data we need to interpret and navigate the emotion, think clearly through our response and the consequences it is likely to have. To make decisions that align with our closely held values and life purpose goals.
Imagine how much our self- awareness would increase if we abided by the grounding communication rule of 30:70? If we managed to hold back those words busting to be spoken, and appreciated the silence more often.
Sitting next to my friend, I felt the power of the silence. We spoke about many things, and we shared even more as she quietly napped.
As you go about your week, I challenge you to think about the following questions.
They may enrich your relationships and your life…
- On a scale of 1-10, how often do I interrupt people when they speak to me?
- How closely do I observe peoples’ body language every time they speak to me?
- What are the words I am not hearing in this conversation?
- What is the meaning behind the words being used?
- What is my level of awareness around 30:70 percent communication?
- How often do I talk 30 percent of the time, and listen 70 percent of the time in my conversations?
- How comfortable am I with silence in my conversations?
- How often do I try and fill the quiet space?
Remember the anacronym W.A.I.T.
It stands for Why Am I Talking.
It’ll save your conversation every time.