For as long as I can remember, people have told me that I do not speak enough. The feedback has come from family, friends, and colleagues throughout my life. I regularly respond to questions such as �you didn�t say much in that meeting�is everything okay?� and �you sure don�t have much to say, do you?� to comments such as �you seem quiet today.� I�m an introvert, of course, so these comments are peculiar sometimes. Silence is not uncomfortable for me; to the contrary.
Generally, the assumption that others make about my arcadian behavior is that I am displeased or otherwise in a negative mood. Almost always, this could not be further from the truth. It is a predominantly conscious decision to be brief or altogether silent rather than some side effect of my mood or emotions at the time. As I have grown older, I have found silence and brevity to help me in many of my interactions both personally and professionally. My philosophy on leveraging silence and limiting my words has been formed by thought, conversation (ironically), and reflection on that very topic. But my placidity also comes from other paradigms. What follows are those paradigms, quotes that inspire them, and comments on how they have shaped my communication.
�Never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut.� � Robert Newton Peck, �A Day No Pigs Would Die�
Today, people simply talk too much. Our world is full of people who are unnecessarily verbose. There�s even a term for this in psychology: logorrhea. Social media and related platforms that lead others to believe what they have to say is important�whether it is or not�exacerbate this phenomenon. For some, this is because they like to hear themselves talk; they get satisfaction from being the one doing the talking with no regard to the effectiveness of their communication. In and of itself, talking is not something I enjoy. Contrarily, I enjoy thinking, and not speaking is a prerequisite to worthwhile, meaningful thinking.
�Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.� � Eleanor Roosevelt
Sometimes I am found to be quiet not because I am attempting to become a monk, but because the subject at hand is of no interest to me. This is especially true when people want to talk about other people. Not people�s problems, ideas on how to help them, events involving them, or anything of the like�just gossip about the person. This is also why celebrity news (which is just gossip about famous people) is such a waste of media in my eyes. Likewise, I fully believe that biographies are The Most Boring genre of literature because the focus is on the person. I am not interested in the person; instead, my interest is in a person�s ideas.
�If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.�� Kahlil Gibran
Perhaps the best way to keep secrets is to not share them to begin with. But if you must, consider sharing them mindfully; remember that a breeze carries.
�When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men�s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.�� Cicero
�Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.� � John Ruskin
While we have much in abundance, both time and attention are in perilously short supply � mine not excluded. Make each word count.
�You have to allow a certain amount of time in which you are doing nothing in order to have things occur to you, to let your mind think.� � Mortimer Adler
You may recall that I enjoy thinking.
�Language most shews a man: Speak, that I may see thee.� � Ben Johnson
Perhaps prominently, the underlying explanation for my silence in many situations is not due to having nothing to say. Instead, it is because in some circumstances I can profit from others who are not silent.
Recall those mentioned above who talk too much�those who are excessively verbose�even for the sake of just hearing their own voices. It is with people such as this in some circumstances where advantage might be gained. You see, the ability to leverage silence (or to be succinct), contrasted against other�s their verbosity, allows me to evaluate these chirpy individuals more quickly and fully than if I were actively engaging in the conversation. So while they speak, I think (see above). Deployed in the proper circumstances, this is a powerful advantage to gain.
So for those individuals, let them speak: speak freely, speak fully, and speak long. Respond eventually, perhaps � but only in due time, after careful assessment, and with appropriate brevity.
These paradigms guide my philosophy (which itself is still developing). Of course, there are times when not a single one of the paradigms above apply to explain my reticence. It is in those times, for people who might ask me directly��why are you so quiet?��that I always offer this final thought:
�Quiet people have the loudest minds.� � Stephen Hawking