The Yin & Yang of Silence – 8 facts when to speak up or shut up

February 1, 2017

“Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

Not sure if it’s Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, or if the quote has its root in the Bible, it’s a quote I like.

When was the last time when you were keen to speak up just for the sake of being heard? When did you stay silent because there was nothing to add, or when you had been afraid of speaking up? When did you have the courage to stand in for your opinion, your values or the values of others regardless of the consequences?

These questions are good to reflect on for our work lives and for family and friends situations.

Silence as defined in the dictionary says, “absence of sound” and also “cause to become silent; prohibit or prevent from speaking”.

Where is the fine line? When is it time to speak up or shut up?

Silence is golden:

  1. When you have nothing to add in a meeting or a conversation that isn’t beneficial, missing or interesting
  2. Before making a joke about someone or something. Think twice. Not everyone has the same humor and you can hurt people.
  3. When you feel that the person you are talking too isn’t open for your arguments. Very often we can’t wait to make our point, as we believe knowing what’s right or works. We simply ignore the wave length our counterpart is receiving. If we can’t tune in, better say nothing.
  4. When there are no words. (Loss, grief, sickness) A hug, a touch, a genuine eye contact, just “being” there in the moment does more than a few words. Sometimes our own feelings confuse us in these situations. Get clarity before saying something.

Make a ruckus:

  1. When somebody tramples on your values or feelings. Set borders, they are always within your powers. Don’t give your powers away.
  2. For those who can’t, whatever their reason. You may be their only chance to protect them from harm.
  3. When silence will otherwise be a “silent” agreement. No need to go at great length about history these days, it is all over the press.
  4. When someone wants your opinion or you feel it is “of need” saying it out loud.

Speak from your heart

In case of doubt, listen to your heart. It may sound cheesy but when we speak from our heart we hardly “rationalize” sentences or intentions through our mind. It’s our genuine self who shows up, unclouded of perceptions how we come across, which impact we have or whatever the consequences.

Lastly, a metaphor I am using as a reminder when in danger of violating these rules:

"Words are like toothpaste, once they are out it’s hard to get them back in”



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