Before the memory of winter disappears completely in this spring that arrives with impetus, let’s make our third stop on the path of compassionate communication. It is the turn of silence, a great and unknown ally in the art of good communication.
I remember what they told us in school about leaving the land fallow and how that programmed rest was essential for the field to recover its nutritional strength after long times nurturing life. Bringing the idea to our communication, I argue that we should enjoy something similar at any time of year, actively seek our own moments of fallow.
Long or short moments, intermittent or daily, it does not matter as long as they are our moments of particular silence. Moments in which we can look inside, put the counter to zero or just shut up for a while. Yes, read also here to silence our mind.
I think that this silence, intimate and difficult – we’ll get to this – is usually the seed of great things. Of these silences depends that we can, for example, nourish and repair communication in all our relationships, starting with the most important of all: the relationship with ourselves. And from my experience I gather that, if we do not create the spaces for that silence before the verb, everything usually gets complicated, especially our communication.
Notice that at the end of the day, most of us will have spent hours sending emails and messages to other people. And instead, we will not have spent enough time communicating with ourselves, ignorants that this is the first step to positive communication with others. Thich Nhat Hanh says it forcefully:
“Stopping and communicating with oneself is a revolutionary act”.
What happens is that in general silence makes us very uncomfortable. And the current world makes it easy for us to postpone that discomfort ad eternum: ubiquitous connectivity, social networks, whatsapp, screens that distract us with other people’s stories or music platforms accompanying our walks. With so much candy outside, the issue of stopping to listen to your own voice turns out to be a little more complicated every day.
But in communication the thing works as follows, without exception: if we do not know what happens inside ourselves, if we do not understand our own order or inner chaos, how are we going to be able to communicate well with another person?
It took me years to understand this. Like everyone else, I was also frightened by silence and experienced myself the words of my admired Joseph Campbell: “The cave where you fear to enter is where your treasure hides.”
We could agree that undertaking the journey of knowing oneself may be the first serious fear that adulthood poses to us. What if I don’t like what I find inside the cave? What if I go into the darkness and my own shadows scare me so much that I better leave it for another day?
I am afraid that, without entering the cave, without lovingly facing our own interior, there will be no treasure. And to know what happens inside, sooner or later we must resort to silence. As many times as needed.
Silence invites us to listen and understand our heart, in all its richness of nuances, passions, fears and longings. And accepting what is in our heart will lead us little by little to a more authentic and respectful communication at all levels.
And believe me that in that silence we will also become much more powerful. Not of the power that wants to destroy the other, but of the one that constructs from the own light and the own inner strength. Of that power that is born from within and overcomes fears with a stroke of courage. Here is an Arab proverb that I now understand in all its scope: “From the tree of silence hangs the fruit of security”.
I also think about the value of silence in a speech. We are usually dominated by the impulse to fill all the spaces of our talk, but if we learn to use silences strategically, our speech will gain in texture, rhythm and charisma. Good mastery of breaks will be as important as mastering the words we say.
So, this is, neither more nor less, the value of silence in the communication process with oneself, with others and with the world.
I close by sharing my great silent moment of 2018. It was at the beginning of the mild Mediterranean winter, one of those days when nature calls you. There was no one in the forest where I stopped. With my eyes closed, sitting silently under an oak, sun rays caressed my face. My own stillness allowed all the sound life of the forest to manifest itself: birds and other small animals, the soft wind against the leaves and some distant bark. There I was, breathing and thanking, when an infinitesimal and eternal silence was created, in which I could clearly hear how an acorn fell off its tree to the ground. Pure magic.