“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer” – Muhammad Ali
We live in a noisy world, where days filled with innumerable heterogeneous and distracting sounds have become the default state for most of us. As our inner and outer surroundings become louder, we feel the need for a dose of quietness and stillness in our rowdy environment. Our day-to-day conversations consist of plenty of examples where we try to avoid silence as an attempt to prevent awkward wordless moments. Consequently, (occasionally) empty words add to the worthless noise encircling us.
But how does silence help us in this harsh mixture of sounds where we live?
“… Noise stresses me out,” says Genta, 28. “In a loud and noisy world, silence helps me express myself better.”
Silence is a very effective communication tool; however, applying non-verbal communication in our daily conversations has to be done in a constructive way. Studies show that words make up 10 percent of what we say, vocal tone and pace 35 percent, and non-verbal communication 55 percent. When we speak, silence helps us gather our thoughts, and choose words more carefully. When we listen, silence helps us think deeply about what was said, and how it affects us.
Sometimes, we need to take a break—or, better, disengage for a while from our electronic devices and avoid the distraction of the online media. We often find it difficult to stop filling up the gaps in our everyday life with technology. It has become a habit for most of us to use our mobile phones at meetings with friends or family, instead of talking to each other. This online noise is overstimulating us, and, as a result, is guilty of creating stress, and making us less productive.
One of the best examples of someone who uses the power of silence in his favor is Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd. He is one of the few big names in music today who chooses not to do any interviews, and who has a limited social media presence in the loud online community. Tesfaye used the whole aura of mystery surrounding him to his advantage, by being the mainstream pop icon that many people know about, but they still don’t know enough about him.
On the other hand, not everyone values silence the same way. Fabio, 23, admits he needs silence “to take important decisions, and have clear thoughts”, but he “can’t sleep at night when it’s completely silent.”
Studies show that silence has positive effects on our brains, too. Noise pollution leads to high blood pressure and heart attacks, as well as weakened hearing. By activating brain’s amygdala, loud noises increase stress levels, and can cause anxiety, depression, and headaches in some people, while silence relieves stress and tension. Furthermore, quietness restores brain to its default activity, and regenerates its cells.
It is important to note, however, that the lack of silence in the modern world, where people have become used to the continuous activity of everyday life, has intensified the so-called inner noise. Often, our calm minds become unsettled and the inner monologue transforms into mental noise. As a result, we start dwelling on every little thing about our life, activities, and people we meet. The immense amount of outside information, combined with our own worries, merge together to overstimulate our minds. Therefore, letting silence speak becomes crucial for our mental well-being.
Silence is not an easy tool to master, especially in the noisy world we live in. Is silence risky? Yes. Sometimes, it is risky to let the uncertainty and discomfort of silence take its toll on us. But it is worth a try. What is better than silence when you can’t think of a good answer, after all?