Is Silence really Golden?

‘Silence is Golden’ is an oft used and well known proverb and ‘silence’ is metaphorically represented by gold signifying the worth of silence. Though it is part of a larger proverb which reads “Speech is silver, Silence is Golden”, the latter part of the proverb has stayed on in our thoughts and minds. There is no doubt about how powerful silence is; to ward off a storm in many a situation, but unless used with care and awareness, the repercussions of ‘Silence’; can either be golden or like being in a dark dungeon!

‘Silence’ on analysis comes in many forms:

Stone walling silence: This form of silence is perhaps the most difficult to cope with and often happens between two significant people in a close relationship. One excludes the other; as if the other does not exist though they may be a part of a larger functional group where each stone walling member will relate to all others in the team as if nothing is amiss!

Combustible silence: The warring parties are well aware of each other’s hostility and so does the extended group. There is a lot of simmering within, and this silence is heavy. A stray word or an innocent comment can shatter the silence; replacing it with a verbal battle.

Compressed silence: This is perhaps the most dangerous of all! In order to create an ambience of tranquillity for which the person could have a high value, many a potential conflicting situation is pushed under the carpet as if nothing is amiss! However the virtual calm cannot last long, one incident piles on the other, and by the time the crack is visible on the surface considerable damage is already done. Compressed silence can take one by surprise, it is like a ship on calm waters that suddenly begins to sink for no apparent reason!

Confidential Silence: The term confidential is used here more as a pun! It represents the information known only to the person, and more specifically information that carries bad news. This is very common in our Indian cultural context where we are constantly encouraged to blast the good news, and downplay or hide the bad news!

Contemplative silence: This is more of an introspective silence that unleashes the creativity paving way for new defining paths, or one that helps in decision making and problem solving.

Collaborative Silence: This form of silence is perhaps what really represents the adage that “Silence is Golden”. It is knowing that the presenting conflicting situation is beast dealt with by being silent, and involves watching for the appropriate time to pitch in and resolve the issue.

Calm and Blissful silence: This represents silence that is both meditative and blissful. It could be in a group, or between two people, and the rapport and comfort of each other’s’ being is so high, that there is no need to talk, a thousand things could be exchanged without uttering a word. Every nuance is accepted without judgement, and there is perfect harmony. This form of silence is truly golden!

While the last 3 form the ones that are positively impacting, the first 3 do raise alarm bells. Though different situations warrants different types of silence it is good to have in our conscious awareness the repercussions of each form of silence, and to know perhaps that Silence is not always golden!

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