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The power of silence

The power of silence

By Clare Sultmann

The Aboriginal people call it ‘dadirri’, the practice of deep listening-inner quiet, still awareness and waiting. 

In our culture, we don’t do enough of it. We talk more and listen less and we are worse off for it.

I think many of us are actually a bit afraid of silence. Silence when talking to someone can be awkward, silence at home can be confronting and silence in an open workplace often seems strange. Often we speak just to fill a void. We don’t have much to say, but saying anything, is better than standing or sitting across from someone in silence.

Recently a friend of mine made mention of the fact that she felt that when someone remains silent they hold all the power. You see when you talk, you can babble, tell someone more than you want to. By them not saying anything it forces you to say something. Perhaps sharing more than you would normally have. I know that often I will walk away from someone and thought ‘geez, why did I say that’ or ‘why did I ever confide that piece of information’. The answer is simply I wanted to avoid what I thought was an awkward moment and so I filled the gap with information that I should not have shared.

I once heard a story about the habits of a top international businessman during corporate negotiations. As the story goes, a team from each company would assemble in one room. Each side would have lawyers, bankers, accountants and financial advisers eager to have their say, make their voices heard. Surely those who shout the loudest win don’t they? But here’s the thing. The smartest person in that room; the man whom all others deferred remained silent. Not just for a conversation or a few minutes or even a morning. He remained silent all day. He listened intently, heard valued arguments from both sides, but for the whole day, he never mouthed a word. At the end of the negotiations, he simply wrote on a slip of paper slid it across the table and said: ‘This is how the deal is going to go’. But you see, for the duration of those negotiations his silence meant that he held all the power. No one knew what he was thinking and no one had an inkling as to his thought process. As he spoke less, the other side spoke more, often making the grave mistake of giving away just a little too much information and over-sharing.

So now, every time I am confronted with silence, I try and embrace it and am not bothered by it. In fact, I have come to learn from my very irregular meditations that ‘the quieter you become the more you are able to hear’ and that in itself is incredibly powerful. 

Clare Sultmann

Clare Sultmann is a wife, mother of 3 and the founder of Dear Molly. As a survivor of a catastrophic accident, former barrister at law, published author, and nationally accredited mediator Clare has returned to work in a different capacity. Relocating to Noosa shortly after the birth of her first child, Clare found it difficult to make meaningful and real connections with other like-minded women away from her own network of friends. With this in mind, Clare’s idea was born. Dear Molly aims to provide connections for like-minded women in a real, meaningful and positive manner. It a platform to share, communicate and inspire other women about their ‘real’ life.

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