Silence is Golden?
How do you use silence in your relationships? Do you think this is the best way to get what you want?
Do you think there are cultural differences in how silence is used?
The text narrates how silence is probably more important than actual verbal communication (and hence the title: silence is golden). However, one may question: is silence really golden? This question may arise especially after reading how silence can lead to a host of miscommunications, for instance, in the example of the student-teacher communication on p.177. I use silence in my relationships mostly as a gesture of grievance or of indifference. For instance, with my friends, If I am hurt by anything they have done or said, I’d usually not speak to them as a way of letting them know that they have done something wrong. Thus, silence in this case serves a judgmental function as mentioned on page 179 of the text.
However, in other relationships, especially where I am not very well-connected to other people emotionally, I use silence as a means of conveying my indifference. For instance, when I speak to someone I don’t know that much and they disagree with me over something, I make my disagreement known to them initially. However, later, I do not engage in an argument with them or follow up on our previous correspondence. In that sense, silence serves as a gesture that I don’t care enough or bother to discuss with them. However, I believe, silence contains yet another important meaning which the author does refer to briefly, but does not dwell upon it, i.e. silence can also signal one’s inattentiveness. Thus, if someone asks me in the morning, “how are you”, and I do not respond, it may be that I may not have heard that I’m being spoken to. Likewise, it may also signal to the other person that I am mentally somewhere else.
I do not believe that silence is necessarily the best way to get what one wants. For instance, with my friends, my silence (after having felt offended by their behaviour) can be interpreted differently than I want it to be perceived. Thus, my friends may (and they do so, sometimes as a matter of fact) misunderstand my signal. They think that If I am not speaking it’s because I am either not feeling well, busy or being rude to them. Likewise, silence can instead of being interpreted as indifference may also be taken as a sign of tacit approval or silent acquiescence. However, how would silence be perceived also varies from culture to culture and within social settings even within a single culture. For instance, in many Asian societies, a girl’s silence after being proposed for marriage is taken as a sign of her modest and coy behavior. Thus, her silence is taken to be her approval. However, in the USA, for instance, a girl’s silence may be interpreted as her expression of shock or of possible offense she might have taken at the proposal.