Silence: Friend or Foe

Posted on Posted in Leadership, Teaching Moments

Silence abruptly interrupted the noise.

Silence startled my chaotic system that normalized the noise.

Silence force me to dismiss the comfort of the external vibrato and the reverberating sound within.

Silence rested at zero on the decibel meter, then locked the dial at quiet.

Silence demanded my attention.

Silence was a forced and pregnant pause.

Silence became the aroma of a flavorful sauce that intentionally filled the room.

Silence offered time and opportunity to recover and reflect.

Silence tricked me by substituting healing with the courtship of a hypocritical tease.

For years, I had a love-hate relationship with silence.  I sought out quiet time in order to find a place to relax and escape from the crazy and the busy of my crazy-busy life.  My crazy-busy life used a chorus of screams inside of me to awaken my nerve endings and make my heart race.  Oddly, the emotions and physiological responses triggered by chaos and crazy resulted in cravings of more chaos and crazy.  Before my personal experience, I would have believed that my body would have activated a shut off valve to seal off the access to my brain and my central nervous system.  Although my beliefs generated thoughts of an involuntary bodily function to protect me from the noise, I learned that my personality type really wanted and needed to take charge of managing the external and internal commotion.

In my forced silence, I wondered how I came to be in a place so quiet.  In my silence, I sat a bit frustrated with everything and everyone who left me living with peace and quiet.  I had forgotten all of the things I said I would do “if I just had some free time.”  I forgot all of the times that I wished for peace and quiet.  I learned that frustration and my selective memory coupled with silence had power waste time on negative thoughts instead of using time wisely investing in enriching actions.  Ironically, I think I got stuck on the fact that I didn’t prescribe the quiet time myself.

Silence turned out to be an awesome time for me to develop my creative ideas.  Silence also proved valuable in my professional life.  I spent time studying and evaluating my strategic plans for my department and how those plans align with stated goals of my staff and campus partners.  As much as I resisted the introduction of silence into my day, I have warmed up to the essence of silence.  Once I welcomed the slowing of my crazy-busy life, I began to praise myself for intentional efforts to be still and quiet.  Meditation has allowed me to practice breathing in calm and releasing the chaos.  In the silence, I meditate on ways to bridge gaps between my department and others.  I thought of ways to better support my staff.  I meditated on the challenges in my department.  I thought of ways to incorporate the training and theory about higher education into the fabric of the department.  Silence contributed to the betterment  of my personal life and my professional relationships.

Often the most challenging place for an extrovert like myself is sitting in silence.  My personality naturally drives me to share ideas, connect people with common interests, and use any resources I have to improve the condition of the people and the environment around me.  Last week while sitting in silence, I struggled.  I struggled with the realization that I had no external distractions to excuse me from facing real and tangible issues.  I struggled because I had no diversion from dealing with my personal and professional stuff.  Finally, I shifted my attitude and my attention.  I did some writing and editing of my leadership journal.  During the silence, I incorporated the calming breathes that I learned through meditation.  In the silence, I processed of a couple of work related situations that .  I decided to use the time in silence to read text that would enhance my professional career.  Then, I incorporated the lessons learned into situations with campus partners.  I had time to evaluate my decisions and process in a couple of fact situations.  The silence gave me time to calm my nerves and settle my thoughts.  I was able to find ways that I could mitigate the collateral damage that happens when there are disagreements on process and protocol between the departments.  I meditated on the situations until I found things I could have done to make the situations better and I considered how I would breach sensitive subjects with my coworkers.  Silence definitely shocks my system when I am relegated to listening to the silence.  However, when I embrace the opportunities for development of action, relationships, career, and places, silence was my dear friend.


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