The Generosity of Silence

Earlier today I reached toward my bookshelf in one of those 5-minute captures where I’m taking a brain-break and need some “wayward” food for thought.  I closed my eyes, and ran my fingers along the book spines, settling on one that felt just right, and pulled it out.

When I opened my eyes, in my hands I held Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. On the second page of the Prologue, page viii, I found I had underlined this in my first reading:

“He may simply have been honoring the moment with silence. I had learned over the years that a long silence from Andy was his way of telling me that what I’d said was important. It deserved its own space before being banished by a reply.”

And in my own handwriting beneath it:

This is such a wonderful thought that you can honor someone else with the respect of your silence.

Another way to think about our value of lokomaika‘i this month.

The passage continues:

“We sat together, our hands touching, for several minutes. Andy once told me his mother had taught him not to wait for silence before speaking, but rather, to wait for the silence to end.”

Silence. Respect. Generosity.

They go together nicely.


  1. says

    Aloha, Rosa!
    The sound of silence, still waters running deep
    Echo of thoughts clapping, dream fulfilled sleep
    Lung bursting, breach the surface
    Light explodes, life finding purpose

  2. says

    Silence can indeed be golden Rosa. I’ve been quietly thinking about this quote for a bit now this morning. It’s a great reminder to slow down and THINK before we speak, to THINK before we type. Out of respect for those we are communicating with, and out of respect for ourselves.
    Still waters run deep.

  3. says

    .. “waiting for silence to end” is a nugget.
    Thank you.
    How synchronistic that, through generous-spirited Phil, I clicked over to read your blog, having just come back from our early morning walk along the waterfont here in Sausalito.
    While my-sweet “him” is downstairs making coffee, I went to my study to sit in silence, then followed a practice I learned from a Thich N. Hanh meditative walk/”seminar”… reach out for a book, open to any page… you know the rest…
    this is another time when I realize that the internet brings us all closer to see, collectively, the many sides of the world more vividly, rapidly and completely…one side horrible events (Russia plane crash, violence again in Iraq and Palestine, etc.
    …and the other side, glimmers of all the good that we can witness in others (such as “meeting’ you at just the right time for me this morning) and spreading the word…. the power of us.
    Thank you.

  4. says

    How wonderful; I need to share my 5-minute captures more often seeing how they can bring me such heartfelt, giving comments!
    Mahalo nui loa Steve, Phil, and Kare, what a joy to meet you! I give you all my aloha.

  5. says

    This is wonderful stuff, Rosa! I’ve often thought people’s tolerance for silence is an interesting indicator. Some people can’t stand silence; others are fine with silence.
    IMHO, some of that can relate to introvert/extrovert tendency, some can relate to insecurity, and some can tie right to trust.
    I think it’s interesting how much you can learn from people by what they *dont* say. And, I think silence preceded by a great question can make things so much fun!
    When does silence make you uncomfortable, and when does it make you feel loved?

  6. says

    Great question Dwayne. In my case, learning to love and appreciate silence is mostly about patience, a quality I definitely need more of; my family gets frustrated with me because I can barely sit through a whole movie… no matter how the plot thickens, the pace is usually too slow for me.
    At work, and with managing, silence makes me uncomfortable when I don’t know what’s behind it and am left guessing about someone’s true feelings, or about their intention. It makes me feel great — and admittedly this is quite selfish — when I feel I’ve truly been listened to and heard, and I can see the wheels turning in their heads as they digest or internalize something I’ve said. THAT is very much the reward of what I do, and why I’m a coach.