Publicador de contenidos

Back to 18_4_26_EDU_silencio_opi

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The language of silence

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:50:00 +0000 Published in ABC and Alfa y Omega

In our childhood we learned that words are essential to communicate. Later we discovered that silences also communicate and that they are not limited to being the counterpoint of words, but are an element of communication in themselves.

In defense of the teachers who ignored the communication of silences, it must be said that in the Western world, since ancient Greece, the word has always been the basis of communication and a factor of culture. On the other hand, the Eastern world has considered silence and contemplation not only as a cultural factor, but also as a source of wisdom and spirituality.

Why don't we usually seek silence? Because we are very conditioned by agitation, haste and noise. And if we ever find silence without looking for it, we don't know what to do with it. Moreover, seeing ourselves reflected in the mirror of silence frightens and disconcerts us. And instead of facing this reality, we run away from it to take refuge in activism or on the Internet.

A married couple with conflicts goes to a sentimental consultancy:

-Your problem is a lack of communication.

-But we have five cell phones, we are Facebook friends and we follow each other on Twitter!

-That is not the solution, but the cause of the problem.

There is something even more worrying than living in an environment of deafening noise: passively getting used to that noise and even needing it as background sound for everything we do. This dependence can be observed, for example, in people who need the noise of the television to take a nap; if someone, turns off the device when they are already in the arms of Morpheus, they wake up startled: "Who turned off the TV for me?"

How do the young people of the "botellón" usually react when they climb a mountain for the first time? It is well known that the loneliness and silence disorient and overwhelm them.

The essence of silence is not the absence of sound and words. "Silence is not an absence; it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense presence that exists (...). In this life what is truly important happens in silence. The blood runs through our veins without making a sound, and only in silence are we able to hear the heartbeat." (Robert Sarah).

 There are times when words distract and get in the way, and communication based on silences is more appropriate.

Love is expressed with words as well as with glances and silences, up to the level of complicity: a glance is enough for lovers to understand each other.

For Romano Guardini, the basis of dialogue is the binomial "silence-listening". He conceives silence not only as a condition for recollection, introspection and contact with the inner voice, but also as a certain isolation from the external world in order to reach a more authentic communication. 

The pauses or silences that are interspersed throughout a conversation are not mutism or concealment; neither are they gaps in communication, since they have important functions within it.

Pauses of expectation are the silence made before emphasizing an idea; pauses of emphasis are intended to emphasize what has just been highlighted; pauses of change predispose to change of idea or topic.

These pauses allow for reflection staff to have something valuable to communicate and give the interlocutor time to assimilate the information and prepare the response. But we must learn to interpret each of the silences.

Currently, those who most value creative silence and silent communication are musicians, writers and poets.

Miguel Delibes, after the death of his wife, wrote the following:

"At after-dinner meals, we used to sit across from each other and chat. But most of the time, we were silent. It was enough for us to look at each other and know each other. The silences and the tedium of the early afternoon didn't matter. We were together and that was enough. When she left, I saw it even more clearly: those conversations without words, those glances without project, without expecting great things from life, were simply happiness."

  Pablo Neruda composed the poem "Silencio", from which I select an excerpt:

"I who grew up inside a tree/I would have much to say,/but I learned so much silence/That I have much to be silent/And that is known by growing up/with no other enjoyment than growing up,/With no more passion than substance,/With no more action than innocence."

In today's Spanish society, silence is discredited while verbosity is praised and rowdiness is tolerated. To prove it, it is enough to witness a parliamentary session: its members do not listen, they just talk (talk a lot and without substance).