Sunday, July 10, 2011

better to shut up

Often we hear that it is better to stay quiet than say something you may regret.... There are tons of famous quotes that allude to the power of silence.

“There are times when silence has the loudest voice”(Leroy Brownlow)
“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.” (Gloria Naylor)
“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” (Maragaret Lee Runbeck)
“Do not speak unless you can improve the silence”(proverb)
"Say good words or remain silent"(prophet Muhammad)
“Silence is a source of great strength.” (Lao Tzu)
“Silence is the true friend that never betrays.” (Confucius)
“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers” (Khalil Jibran)
“Silence is also speech” (Proverb)
“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.” (Josh Billings)
“Silence is the safest course for any man to adopt who distrusts himself” (Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld)
“The world would be happier if men had the same capacity to be silent that they have to speak”(Baruch Spinoza)

and there are tons of others on the topic...

I've been trying to pick up the habit or art silence... I am a very talkative person (both internally and externally)... Ironically, I teach my students that "silence is consent"... but maybe silence is a bit more necessary... Sometimes you can really put your foot in your mouth. I see these quiet people, and lately, I'm jealous of them. I wish I had the power to shut up. There are times when warning signals go off in my brain and tell me to stop talking but I ignore them...

so why am I blogging about this...

Today, I opened up a conversation with my mother. I asked her if she could ever undo or edit a decision she's made in the past. I don't know what she expected me to respond with afterwards but I mentioned my education. I didn't mean that I wanted to change my career... or start a new one... I just wanted to de-stress. But I forgot, that sometimes people will misunderstand your words... No matter how many times you try to explain them. That people will forever interpret them with whatever lenses they're wearing at that moment or throughout life. I learned long ago, not to talk about school with my mom, because she never liked my career choice. Academia is a lot of work and I guess, in her own way, she believes that I should exert my energies in a place that may be more productive.

Well, I am going through the toughest part of my career and it's going to be equally as tough for the next two years. I am taking my comprehensive exams and then I will be starting my dissertation, God Willing. I've been in graduate school for over 4 years now; and I still have at least another 2 years... I guess what I wanted with my conversation with my mother, was a little support during this time, maybe some reassurance, maybe some love, maybe some hope... I don't know. But maybe I need to recognize that silence is the best option during times of stress. Maybe those who you normally go to with everything don't need to hear it.

Maybe, if you practice silence you don't have to worry of the repercussions of your words that bounce off another person and back upon you. My dad always quotes prophet Muhammad by saying "Those who say that the people are doomed, they are those who have brought doom upon the people" (really bad translation)... Maybe negative energy needs to be expressed, but not necessarily through words... maybe it can be expressed through other means. When you talk about how stressed you are, or depressed you are, or angry you are, or doomed or whatever.... I guess that's just fuel to the fire. Maybe there is wisdom in silence. It's been tested and tried, right?

Therefore, I have decided to up my game in practicing silence.... Before speaking I will answer the following questions in my head:
1- Does whatever I may say bring benefit? If yes... continue... if no... stop
2- Can whatever that needs to be expressed, be expressed in another way?
3- Is whatever I may say, something stemming from selfish purposes?

Any pointers on how to practice silence?