The Weekly Dream: Hold Your Peace
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to keep silence and a time to speak.”
“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to control the whole body.”
“Every man possesses a simple superpower: silence. Too few flex it on the regular basis.”
In the past, I have spoken in passing about slience, creating a quiet space, finding peace within yourself. However, today I want to talk about holding your tongue. Or more clearly, knowing when to speak and when to listen. On one level, I admire those individuals who are the “strong, silent type.” I have friends who are almost Zen-like in their ability to hold their peace and not say anything, just be “in the cut.” You never know if they are paying attention or watching everything. You do not know what they are thinking or how they really feel about you. And this type of silence lends to them a certain air of mystery, confidence, allure and magnetism.
However, on the other end, I have friends who are the life of the party. They enter the room and the atmosphere changes. They hit a room like they are campaigning for office and by the end of the night they have networked, connected and built rapport with every person in the room. Their allure is being able to come out of their shell and share themselves.
But extremely rare is the individual who knew when to speak and when to listen. This is the person I admires the most. Their silence is an active silence. And when they speak, you know they are going to be clear in their communication. I like to call this the “Golden Mean” (if I may borrow from Confucious), where you neither talk too much or too little. Recently, I have been trying to achieve this Golden Mean by speaking less or choosing the venues I choose to speak very carefully. I like to call this my “Vow of Silence.”
In this exercise, I tried to put a word limit or how much I said in public, open conversation. It was a silly exercise, but you get the point. I enjoyed the challenge. And really, I never understood how those people who I considered “mute-like” did it, because inevitably, someone would come and talk to me. So now, here I am again, attempting to re-instate my vow.
A Mile A Minute
I guess the challenge is because I value clear communication and I like to find out about people. I like to have fun and make conversation and small talk and learn what makes people tick. I hate those awkward silences when you have two people just sitting there. On the other end, in the Book of James, it says if you can control your tongue, you can control your entire body.
More Harm Than Good
Do you ever sit back at the end of the day and think about the conversations you had with people? Whether you gossiped? Whether you spoke good things or ill? I have gotten in the habit of thinking about the things I have said throughout the day: Words spoken in anger, without thinking, compliments spoken, in order to determine the situations it would have been better to listen or to keep silent than to speak. Over time, doing this exercise, I have begun to make the effort to think before I speak.
Using the Bible as a guide, the standard I have adopted is whether my speech is going to be uplifting, helpful or good. I also seek to speak the truth whenever possible. I am not saying I always succeed, but at least I have a base.
Another excellent piece of advice I picked up was from none other than Suge Knight. In an interview, he stated, “Don’t say something unless you are prepared to say it twice.” This means that words have a way of making their way around and getting twisted, so you better not say something you are not willing to take ownership for later. Because I have adopted this standard, people have stated that I seem kind of tactless or blunt. But at least they know I will not be “dogging” them behind their backs and smiling in their face. I also have learned to not speak on things I do not know about. In law, speaking without knowledge is called speculation because there is no foundation to draw the inference or conclusion. How many of us speak before we have all the facts or know the details?
Work In Progress
I am far from having this down to a science and I probably never will. If we could control our tongues, we would be perfect-and no one is that. However, we can do what we can to improve. We all know where we can either communicate better or cut back on putting in our input. We can all exercise wisdom and discretion in using our words. Not every situation demands our commentary or calls for our “two cents.” Let’s begin to view our words as a treasure to be INVESTED wisely. We can do this by thinking about our objective, delivery and audience in speaking. It takes a tremendous amount of consciousness, humility and discipline, but it is worth it because once you put your words out there, you can not take them back. So talk to the people you need to talk to, say what you need to say and mean it. And when you do speak, people will listen.
Good Luck and Godspeed.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas