Is Silence Golden?

We all do it, meaning to reply to a text or an email and then forgetting, only to remember many days or weeks later. It brings up a feeling of guilt and shame. We feel bad for not replying. Somehow somewhere in society we’ve been taught that not responding immediately is bad. But it is?

When people don’t respond to us we take it as a sign they are ignoring us or they don’t want to talk to us. We take it personally and we take it as an insult. More of than not, there is no malintent. There is no ill will. It simply that people are distracted and life is busy.

But what if there is something else going on? What if the person is forming a response or not sure how to respond to you? What if whatever was said triggered them and so now they are having trouble responding to you?

Humans get taught to take these kinds of things personally. We get taught that people are out to get us, that nobody can be trusted, that everybody is evil. We get taught that not being responded to quickly is somehow an insult. It’s a sign of dis-respect. I’m writing this to tell you that it’s not. I want to share a story to help you understand.

I’ve talked about this other relationship I’ve had in my life for over 25 years. I’ve talked about the fact that we separated when I married my husband for a number of reasons. One of the things that happened when I ended my marriage was that I reached back out to him. I didn’t do anything crazy. I told him I missed him and then a few months later I told him some of the things that changed in me. I told him about some of the work that I’d been doing over the last few years so that I could be okay. It’s been more than year and he hasn’t said anything yet.

Most people would give up. Most people would say he’s ignoring me. Most would tell me to move on. In your head, reading this, you may be doing exactly that. Silence from him is not unusual. At various points in our relationship, it has taken him a long while to figure out what to say and how to respond to me. There is no disrespect intended. He is simply coming up with a way to move forward. He’s having to do his own work now. That knowledge is intuitive because those are the messages that I get.

Silence does not have to be triggering. Responses that are well thought out with plans behind them, serve more purpose than quick responses because we’ve been taught that that’s how things should be. If he had rushed to message me, what would have come of that? Probably nothing helpful or lasting. The rush to response is often worse than the silence that could have taken its’ place. Me being triggered or bothered serves no purpose and accomplishes nothing.

Time is our friend, not our enemy. Time is also the great illusion. It is a human construct that we use to keep people in control. So we create schedules, deadlines and expectations around this illusion in order to keep some perception of order in our world. The passage of time is not a bad thing. It happens anyway, whether that person responds or not. Our individual expectations around how long it should take somebody to reply are no more than made up rules that people are supposed to follow.

The next time somebody takes a while to reply, try giving them the benefit of the doubt. Try simply allowing them the time and the freedom to respond in their own way when they are ready to do so. Try removing the trigger that says they are disrespecting you or that your expectations have been broken. What’s the harm? What’s the harm in allowing people to be where they are and follow their own flow?

We often say that people that want to be in our lives will make time for us and put us on their priority list. Have we ever considered that in order to put all the people around us that are important to us on our list, we have to take ourselves off our list? We can’t possibly prioritize everybody around us and still take care of ourselves and all of the other things that come up. That is why we struggle. The demands of the outside world are too great, mostly because of ridiculous expectations and ideas around how things should be.

Let yourselves and each other off the proverbial hook. Silence is golden. You have permission to allow it.

Love to all.


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