Silence is golden


Silence is golden or so goes the saying.  Is it really as valuable as gold ?  Why is silence considered golden ?.  Most of us find it easy to talk rather than not.  We speak more than we listen.  We answer before we are asked a question.  We are comfortable with noise but become lonely in silence.

Talking comes naturally to us.  We grow up being encouraged to talk at home, school and even at work.  We are told be to an extrovert and be gregarious.  We are trained to talk more than to listen.  If we are an introvert, we are told we may not be successful in life.  If a kid is shy and quiet, parents get worried.  Teachers want children to express themselves in more ways than one.

Then, why is silence important and valuable.  The behavioural scientists tell us that more than 70% of our behaviour is non verbal.  This means that expressions and actions speak more than our words.  We need to learn the power of silence and use it effectively in all walks of life.  It is true that many a time silence speaks more than words.

I recall many experiences in my life where silence speaks louder than words.  I remember an incident of my childhood.  My father was a man of few words.  He hardly used to speak at home or at work and always very patient.  Once his office driver told me that he was scared of my father.  I was surprised.  I asked him as how he could be afraid of my dad as he hardly spoke.  He replied that he was not sure what my father had in his mind since most of the time he hardly spoke.  His silence was not easily understood as we could not interpret what he did not tell us.

I remember another incident where my mom used to punish me for my mistakes in life by not talking to me for a few days. The silence at home between me and my mom was deafening.  It was difficult and harsher as a punishment than even a cane on the back.

If you visit a temple, mosque, church or monastery, the silence of the place makes you feel the power of God.  I love to visit religious places which are secluded and lonely.  The sound of the bell in a temple reverberates and echoes in your heart a million times in the silence of the environs.  The solitude of the temple as seen in the picture above makes you connect with God.  

As we grow in life, we realize the value of silence.  Yes, silence does speak more than a thousand words.  We need to learn to listen to the meaning of silence in life.  We have to use the power of silence to manage life situations and enjoy the beauty of silence in life everyday.

S Ramesh Shankar

Power of Listening


We are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But we generally end up talking more than listening.  Why is this so ?  May be it starts with the family, then the academic institutions and finally organisations and society.  We are always encouraged by our family, friends and society at large to communicate well and make an impression, wherever we are.  We have always been guided to outsmart everyone around us.  There is nothing wrong with this teaching.  However, it is important to realize that God may have given two ears and one mouth to all of us with a purpose, as illustrated by this kid in the photo above.

We possibly need to realize that effective communication in life means listening more and talking less.  Let us examine this from own life experiences.  Who in the family we like to spend our time most.  In all probability, it would be our mother.  This is because she would be the best listener in your family.  She listened to our non stop blabbering and the unending questions without losing her patience or cool ever.

If we move to the school or college, who was our favourite teacher ?  Its always the teacher with whom you can share all your stories – good or bad.  The teacher always created space for us.  She was ever willing to listen to us and our views .  She made us comfortable and let us experiment and fail in any situation.  On the other hand, imagine the teacher who advised you on everything in life even before you asked.  What would be your reaction ?

If we move to organisations, employees love peers or managers who lend their ears under all circumstances.  Such managers and peers attract you like a magnet.  You can laugh with them or cry with them and you can be your self.  They are non judgemental and always have the time and space for you.  On the other extreme, you meet managers who are instructing you all the time even on issues where you do not need any advice.  None of us like to work with such managers.

I have sometimes wondered as to why listening is more powerful than talking ?  I recall an incident, where I was conducting an interview of a candidate for the head of manufacturing position.  The interview lasted for an hour.  The candidate spoke for 50 minutes and I may have spoken for ten minutes.  At the end of the interview, I asked the candidate if he had observed anything in his behaviour during the interview.  He was puzzled.  When I explained to him that most of the time he was speaking and I was listening, he realised the power of listening.  I could listen to him and make my decision without speaking much.

Life is no different.  If we look at our kids.  Most of the time if we are willing to listen to their questions and chatter, they are happy.  They are more than happy even if you do not answer all their questions.  They appreciate your patience and listening skills more than your talking.  Listening is more effective in communication than speaking.

I can share another incident in my life.  My father was a government servant.  He was a very patient person.  He hardly spoke and never lost his cool.  But still his staff  adored him.  I was very curious.  I asked his staff one day as to what did they observe in him.  He responded by saying that he admired him for his calmness and patience.  This proves listening is much more impactful than speaking. 

Let us resolve to listen more and talk less from today.  It is worth a try.

S Ramesh Shankar