Honoring the space and silence between words can oftentimes be the most effective form of communication
The space between the words is immense and fertile. It has energy and information and communicates with us, sometimes even better than words.
There is so much being said between the words that often, it is unheard and ignored.
Energy is our first language. Babies start out communicating solely with energy. As parents we know we need to listen to that energy and to what our baby is communicating, but we often mistrust that knowing, telling ourselves that we have to ‘think’ about it. Then, when our child starts to verbalize, we lose or discount our knowing as we learn to fill the space with words that can often be misunderstood.
Have you ever had a relationship where you could catch each other’s eye and communicate volumes without words? You are using the space between the words — that magical communication.
What if that space between the words was filled with gratitude or happiness?
For example, at lunch with a friend that is not talking, we become uncomfortable when there is nothing to say. We then start to judge ourselves or the relationship as dull or boring. We make ourselves wrong instead of just enjoying each other’s company. But what if instead we viewed the space between the words as comforting and relaxing?
Many of us believe that if we talk a lot it proves how good or right we are. Have you ever been in business meetings where the people who talk the most think they are controlling and impressing everyone? Does it really work to bulldoze over all the silence without giving people a chance to think and respond and contribute?
When the space between words is ignored and dismissed, ideas and possibilities can’t expand or grow.
Think of advertising. Billboards or print ads that have a lot of words or information on them are overwhelming and generally counterproductive, whereas ones with lots of space are easier to read and understand. Mid-20th century American composer, John Cage, wrote music featuring silent spaces between the notes. His famous work, 4’33”, is a piece composed entirely of the silent sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed.
There are times when you are with people that don’t really know or understand you where it seems right to just smile and be silent rather than speak and try to convince them that who you are and what you do is useful or exciting. That is using the space between the words.
Simply being grateful or being happy or relaxed communicates an energy to them that may be disarming, but it can also reflect true communication.
True communication is based on the following 5 practices:
1. Being interested
There is a difference between being interested rather than interesting. When you ask questions and then allow for silent space, the other person can talk and feel heard. It is a very attractive and compelling habit. Practice asking questions and being interested in whomever you’re talking with. If you are truly being interested, you won’t talk if there is nothing to say. They will appreciate the space you provided and will go away thinking you are so interesting.
2. Giving up the need to fill the space
Have you ever wondered why you end up talking in some situations? Might it be because you are aware of the discomfort that shows up for most people when there is nothing being said?
Many people feel they have to fill a silent void, often with unnecessary talk. Not only is this unhelpful, but it is exhausting for everyone involved.
Instead, learn to get comfortable with silence within a conversation or when you are alone by doing things that nurture you by enjoying the practice of listening in the woods, taking a bath, being with animals, etc.
3. Allowing silence to fuel your creativity
Start to appreciate silence and stillness in any situation for what it can be: the fuel for creative ideas.
New ideas come from space.
Successful entrepreneurs add something to their lives that creates the space for their creative flow like painting, playing an instrument, riding or being with an animal, hiking, etc. What is it for you?
4. Being willing to shut up
Everyone can add value to any situation, any conversation. However, we’re most powerful when we ask ourselves “how long am I willing to shut up?” Animals and babies teach us to be without words. The communication with them is not filling or exhausting; it is healing and creates space to let you breathe, receive, engage, enjoy, and to simply be present.
5. Liking, not judging, yourself
Building up a strong relationship with yourself is based on the 5 elements of intimacy:
Trust, honor, allowance, vulnerability and gratitude.
Intimacy is the place where you have no judgment of yourself or anyone else, total caring and kindness, which means the willingness to be there in a way that is nurturing and generative. The intimacy you have with yourself is the basis of all your relationships and creations. The freedom it creates gives you the ease to listen and receive the space between the words.
Trust is where you allow yourself to know and honor yourself with regard, whether anybody else approves of it or not. Vulnerability is the place where you can be who you are and not have to hide anything of you or need to be ashamed. You are there without barriers and are not trying to protect yourself from anything. In that space you have the potency to be who you truly are. Allowance is being the rock in the stream, where you don´t have to resist or react to anything. Having gratitude for you and your life and everyone that is in your life and everything that is showing up.
You can ask in any situation: Am I honoring myself with this choice? If I choose to trust myself what choice would I make? If I choose this will this honor me?
Impactful communication is about economy of conversation; use your words only when they will have the greatest impact. Most people have learnt that as soon as somebody is silent, they have to start talking instead of using the silence to create something positive. But if you want to access greater possibilities, silence and the space between the words is the best way to do so.
You may also enjoy reading Insights From the Heart: Learning to Listen to My Body, Mind & Spirit by Karen Eller