The Uncomfortable Power of Silence

I spend a lot of time thinking about silence.

This probably surprises some people who know me, the people who know my husband refers to me as a noisy little thing. I am terrible at both sitting still and being quiet. I sing nonsensical songs in the shower and I chatter as I do my daily work. I am (often regrettably) the first to respond to a question asked of a group and I am more comfortable filling silences than sitting with them. It both despite all of this and because all of this that the idea of silence weighs so heavily on me.

I’m intentional about silence in some venues. It can be a disarmingly effective tool in student meetings and conversations. It opens the door for quiet reflection in an organization’s board room. And though it is still an uncomfortable space for me, I recognize that it is an expansion of conventional communication.

Some of my fascination, admittedly, stems from the fact that silence is both a noun and a verb. There aren’t many of those words in the English language, a scarcity that makes it more noticeable. And just as it is both a noun and a verb, it is also a shield and a sword. We use silence to defend and protect, just as we use it to hurt others.

This is on my mind more than usual because I’ve felt silenced lately, mostly by my own volition, but also by the actions of others. I’m struggling to find my voice again and until then I find myself enveloped in a silence that’s… oppressive? tiring? physically uncomfortable? Maybe a little of all of those.

It will even out or I will sort it out, but for now, it’s a good lesson in being quieter and letting myself be uncomfortable.





  • urbie delgado

    Silence Is Golden (Gaudio & Crewe,1964) and Sounds of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel, 1963) illustrate what a gift silence and harmony are.

    What do you sing in the shower? I get old songs from the 60s stuck in my head a lot. Whatever song I’m singing or humming is a lot better than tinnitus.

    Gaudio, B. & Crewe, B. (1964) retrieved July 11, 2013 from the youtube website at

    Simon, P. & Garfunkel, A. (1963) retrieved July 11, 2013 from the youtube website at