One of the challenges, during my counselor training, was to allow moments of silence during a session with a client. It felt uncomfortable to hold back – not to immediately jump into the gap. Once I had learned to let go of this feeling of unease and not to fill the silence with a new question or suggestion, it became a very powerful way to bring the conversation down to a deeper level.
I now often fall silent with my clients. This gives them the chance to go inside and to feel what needs to be said. If I sense that the client is uncomfortable with this, I reassure him briefly. “Take your time.”
I allow myself this same silence more and more often with friends. We so often fill the space between us with chitchat, talking for the sake of talking. And if we run out of things to say, we turn on the radio or television. Dreading a moment of silence, it might make us feel uncomfortable. Actually, silence between friends can feel very comfortable. Communicating by eye contact or a simple gesture, feeling good about each other’s company.
I’m often alone. Usually I don’t have the radio or television going, sometimes I listen to music. In this silence another type of chitchat emerges, my inner chattering. I can hold entire conversations in my head. Sometimes I even write an entire blog in my head before a single letter is written on paper. But I do practice inner silence, even though I do find it more difficult than silence between two people.
Practicing inner silence can be done through meditation or mindfulness. Some people prefer movement – dance, drumming, or singing – to sitting still. Writing works for me. I almost always begin my day by writing until my head is empty and ready to start the day.
What are your methods to silence the inner chatter? Are you comfortable with silence between people?