Be noticed by doing nothing!
Have you ever been in a situation that was conflicted, but did not seem to have any viable conclusion? You may have had an opinion, but it would not have changed anything.
I don’t think that most people understand the power that silence can have. I did not realize it for much of my life, but in looking back, I can see the effects it had at times.
The first time I actually realized how powerful it was, I was in a meeting in my boss' office. We had all just come from another meeting where all of the managers in our call center were told that they were now going to be required to take customer service calls for four hours a week. No one was pleased with this directive. Many call center managers have never taken calls or haven't for some time, so their knowledge was a bit rusty. Most were angry because they just didn’t want to do it; I was not pleased because it was a stupid idea. As good as I was when I was a customer service representative, it had been a long time and it was going to take me twice as long as a skilled representative to complete a call; and chances were, I would just annoy the caller when I had to look up answers. I realized, however, that no argument was going to change the outcome, so I wasn’t going to try. I went to my manager’s office, to where he had summoned his team, after the meeting. I was the last to arrive. All the chairs were taken, so, being in a mood anyway, I slid down the wall and sat on the floor. (We were in a casual dress office, so I was wearing jeans; I wasn’t sliding down in a suit!) Arguments were already in progress, so I just sat and listened and chose not to participate, knowing it was a fruitless activity. I was usually very vocal in discussions, but not this time. This went on for a while and I noticed that my boss kept looking over at me, often suddenly, with a snap of his neck. It came to me, after a while, that it was freaking him out that I wasn’t saying anything and he was watching me as though I was a ticking bomb about to go off. As time passed and I became aware of just how crazy it was making him, my reason for staying silent changed from seeing no point in arguing to amusing myself to see how crazy I could make him. We ended the meeting; me, continuing in silence, but we were due back in an hour or so for a previously scheduled staff meeting. Upon our return for that meeting, I maintained my silent demeanor and my boss maintained his “bomb watch.” After a while, he apparently couldn’t stand it anymore and he finally looked at me and, in a rather edgy tone, said, “You’re not talking!”
To which I replied, “Yeah.”
That was when I came to understand the amazing power of silence.
I was a very quiet, introverted child, never wanting to be noticed and definitely never wanting to be the center of attention. Oddly enough, I would get to the end of a school year only to find out that I was a favorite of many of my teachers. I was quiet, did my work and never missed an assignment; always knew the answer when called on. I guess in some ways and for some teachers, I was a model student. I just didn’t understand that silence played a big part in that.
Looking back, I know now that I spent most social occasions in a quiet spot, just observing, and that it often made people wonder what I was up to! I still have a tendency to find a quiet corner at parties and just observe.
When I was going through a very difficult and painful divorce, I reached a point where it was just too upsetting to engage in conversation with my soon to be ex-husband, so I stopped taking his calls. A friend at work would intercept the calls and advise that I was not available. It made my husband, who had chosen life with another woman, absolutely crazy! The fact that it was a man, albeit one young enough to be my son, just enhanced the crazy!
For some years now, silence has become a weapon, of sorts, and I use it when the situation warrants it. What makes this work for me is my own self-worth, which was a long time in coming. In my younger years, I never had a lot of self confidence, so I stayed in the shadows. As I’ve aged and had to work through the struggles of life, I’ve learned to believe in myself. As such, I know what I believe in, what I trust, what I stand for, and I do so knowing that I am right. That is, I am right for me and, for me, that is all that counts. I trust in my own ability to think for myself. Because of that, I can discuss an issue without arguing about it. I don’t need someone to agree with me as I have no need to win.
That is another aspect to this “power.” That is the unwillingness to engage in conflict. I’m not saying I won’t argue a point, when it is important, but arguing just to win is not in my nature. I don’t need to win. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, so, if I don’t care or don’t think it’s important, I just let them win and there again, it makes them crazy, especially men!
I have two friends, men, who wanted to prove something to me that wasn’t going to change my choices, so I conceded that they were right and was over it, but they wanted to prove it to me. It made them crazy that I conceded, but wouldn’t let them prove it. You would think I killed their puppy! I wasn’t being difficult, but I was busy and did not want to stop what I was doing.
In recent years, politics has become a very emotional and divisive topic and I have seen a distinct split amongst my friends, most of them being at the opposite end of my belief system. That has been a source of disappointment and distance. Silence has been my saving grace in keeping those relationships I could not bear to lose.
Using it wisely
So, I've learned to use silence as a tool, a safe mechanism, and, yes, occasionally as a peaceful weapon. It is the most non-violent weapon you can imagine, but it can often have the most profound effect!
About the author
I am a retired call center manager, a freelance photographer who loves to travel, share images and write about my travels and the things that matter to me. My family is everything to me and I am blessed by them and many great friends.