The sound of silence is… conversation?
Kierkegaard said the gift of conversation – of being able to talk with anyone – is genius.
He goes even further and says that conversation is actually a form of silence:
This happy gift was given to me in order to conceal the undoubted fact that I am the most silent man of my day.
Silence hid in silence is suspicious, arouses mistrust, it is just as though one were to betray something, at least betrayed that one was keeping silence.
But silence concealed by a decided talent for conversation – as true as ever I live – that is silence.
I have to admit that I had never considered conversation as a form of silence before.
But the more I think about it, the more I see his point.
Someone with a talent for conversation is good at active listening.
This means no monologues.
And no sitting and marinating in one’s own thoughts – after all, thoughts are often as noisy as one’s spoken words.
While in the flow of a good conversation, your focus is on the other person and the ideas under discussion.
This type of silence is as meditative and nourishing as when one is alone and silent.
Also, although there’s nothing like the comfortable silence between people who are close to each other, where there isn’t pressure to speak, I reluctantly admit that these comfortable silences aren’t possible with most of the people we converse with.
Even though I appreciate silence, I can recall times when I’ve been uncomfortable in the presence of a silent acquaintance. No matter how many questions I asked or how much interest I showed in the person, it was impossible to prime the pump due to their deep introversion.
This isn’t to say that an extrovert incessantly engaging in incessant chatter with much incessance is a superior conversation partner to the silent introvert.
Conversation is a skill that has to be learned, regardless of one’s temperament. Extroverts aren’t necessarily more skilled at conversation than introverts.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to develop the genius talent of conversation. If you want some practical tips about this, check out this Psychology Today article.
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