In his 1918 work, The Power of Concentration (re-published in ebook form by Mike Litman), the author, Theron Dumont wrote, “It is necessary to be silent before you can speak wisely.” True enough, as stated. But then he goes on to write something I believe to be particularly profound.
According to Dumont, “The person who is really alert and well poised and able to speak wisely under trying circumstance is the person who has practiced in the silence.”
I see two different interpretations – or levels – regarding what Mr. Dumont wrote:
#1 The silence itself must be practiced. In other words, how difficult is it for most people (myself included) to remain silent after hearing someone say something with which they disagree? Don’t you just want to spring back with an answer? Well, what happens when you do that? There are several possible results, amongst which are:
A. Confusion. Since you don’t understand exactly what the other person is really saying but, instead, are allowing your personal belief system/paradigm/world model to interpret it for you, you react to something the other person doesn’t actually mean.
B. Less persuasive response. Since you answer without first forming a clear
idea as to what you want to say and how you can best say it, your answer lacks the meaning you would have given it had you taken a moment to think it out.
C. Resentment toward you and resistance to your ideas from the other person. This is the natural result of jumping down his/her throat the very nanosecond they finished their sentence.
Again, please don’t think that I’ve never been guilty of any of these. I have more times than I care to remember.
None of these options makes for effective and persuasive communication. For this alone, it seems as though it would be a great idea for all of us to practice (getting into) the silence. In other words, practice holding our tongues until we’ve first allowed silence to buffer the response.
The second interpretation I see of Mr. Dumont’s statement however is, in my opinion, even more meaningful. In “practicing in the silence” he is teaching us to be comfortable in the silence and even allowing the silence to be our guide. There is actually wisdom within the silence.
He writes, “Speech interferes with the focusing powers of the mind, as it withdraws the attention to the external and therefore is hardly to be compared with that deep silence of
the subconscious mind, where deep thoughts, and the silent forces of high potency are evolved.”
So, as an exercise, perhaps we can all keep within our awareness the goal to practice being silent before speaking, to practice not only being silent but to practice in the silence.
Hmm, I wonder how many Thanksgiving Family Dinners could benefit from that kind of, err…practice. 🙂