Enjoy the Silence

Gerwig 2014-12-29

Does silence bother you? Some of you can’t stand silence while others embrace it. Which camp are you in? Is there a right or wrong perspective on silence? Some of you might want some silence but struggle to find it or get there, even if you know where it is.

Kids, job, spouse, hobbies, etc. (“life”) make it difficult at times to find silence. On the other hand, some of you might need to escape the silence in which you surround yourself and get back into the “real world” with people, noise, and chaos.

Like many “things,” silence isn’t good or bad. In the right context, silence can be good or bad. It depends. For example, if you asked your girlfriend to marry you and she remains silent, that’s a bad thing. If your 5 year old child remains quiet while you have an important phone call, that’s a good thing.

What I’ve noticed, especially during the holiday season when life gets especially crazy, is that silence is hard to come by. And it is often viewed as something to avoid. If you’re silent, you must be angry or frustrated or shy. If you’re loud and busy, you must be important and intelligent and sophisticated.

Regardless of whether you’re an extreme introvert or extrovert, take time to enjoy the silence. Regardless of whether you’re sophisticated or simple, take time to enjoy the silence. Regardless of whether you’re in an important role or a “normal” role, take time to enjoy the silence.

While there is noise and chaos all around us, world-class leaders know that noise is a necessary part of life, but so is silence. It is a gift to be embraced and enjoyed. Great leaders use silence to develop vision, focus, align and prepare. They use it to build their energy reserves so that they can successfully navigate the chaos.

If you’re having a difficult time finding silence to enjoy, you may have to do some planning. Take some time and get away. Take a long walk. Go camping. Go to the beach. Get up earlier than others in your family. Take a weekend getaway. Enjoy the silence.

Do you know how many people unplug for even a few minutes a day? Neither do I, but I’m willing to bet it’s not many. Nearly everywhere I go are iPads, iPhones, TVs, radios, Pandora, barking dogs, crying babies, airplanes, cars, and the like making noise. Ever hear the term, “noise pollution?”

Have you been to an airport recently? Have you noticed how difficult it is to find silence? Flight updates, boarding times and zone numbers are constantly being announced over the PA system. People are talking and yelling and fussing everywhere you turn. If you sit in the passenger seating area you are required to listen to the TVs posted on the wall or from the ceiling. Regardless of your desire for quiet, you’re going to hear what CNN has to say.

It continues when you board the plane. The flight attendant tells you to put your small bag under your seat, then you’re told to get out of the aisle so others can get to the back of the plane (why isn’t boarding from back to front?), then you’re instructed how to buckle your seatbelt. Later the captain welcomes you, later still he tells you there’s turbulence and to buckle your seatbelt (though the flight attendant has already told you to keep your seatbelt fastened), and finally he tells you the turbulence is over but to keep your seatbelt fastened. And on and on and on. One day, I’m going to conduct a time-study on how much silence can be found on a 4-hours coast-to-coast flight. Why do you think Bose has been so successfully selling noise cancellation devices? My suggestion? Rather than cancelling all the noise, how about eliminating some of it to begin with?

Some days I feel like being in the center of the party. Other days I feel like enjoying the silence. Some days I like to have 8 people in my house talking at once. Other days I want some time alone. Some days I have multiple mobile devices beeping and ringing and talking. Some days I disconnect.

How about you? Do you enjoy the silence (as well as the noise)? Do you view silence as a gift to be embraced and enjoyed. Remember, great leaders use silence to develop vision, focus, align and prepare. Do you?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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3 thoughts on “Enjoy the Silence

  1. Hi, Robert – interesting post.

    I imagine some of what you observe about being silent has to do with whether people are internally or externally wired. Most of the information I have seen tells me that those who are innately introverted or internally-oriented is a relatively small percentage of the general population. If so, this means most people are more comfortable being busy, connected, and around people.

    I am glad you reinforce the “not good or bad” message in all this. I am more introverted, although my work often calls me to public speaking, presentations, and faciliation of groups. I have worked for folks in the past who spent much energy trying to break me out of my much desired and very comfortable shell. For example after a long day of working with people, I love to disappear into solitude and am quite happy not seeing anyone else until breakfast. One VP with whom I worked told me I was not a “people person” and was struck silent when I calmed and contentedly agreed with him:)

    John

    • Hi John –

      Thanks for your comment and Happy New Year. All the best in 2015!

      Your story made me smile. Glad to hear you were confident in your authentic response to the VP.

      Yes, rarely does one need to tell an introvert to “enjoy the silence.” And there is definitely an element of “balance” that comes into play here (versus operating at the extreme). There’s also an element of “context” (or “situation”) that comes into play so as you appropriately point out, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” (or a right/wrong).

      Perhaps one day I’ll write an article for the minority (introverts) called “Enjoy the Noise.” 😉

      Regards,
      Robert

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