[CONDUCTING A SILENCE PROJECT]
So, I decided to take a vow of silence for three days starting Sunday night at 2 a.m. A better description would be that for three days I make a conscious effort not to talk.
Before I started I had to know why I was going to do this. I didn’t want it to be for attention because that’s stupid. So I had to think what would be the benefits of not talking. I decided that I wanted to take this vow so that I could:
- Learn to listen better. People hear all kinds of things, but how often do we really listen? How often do we try to take in and understand what we are hearing? I just want to listen better, to take in the world around me.
- To gain control over my own tongue. It would take a conscious, true effort to keep myself from speaking. Being an extrovert and a problem solver, this would be especially hard. I want to be in control over what comes out of my mouth and not say every ignorant thing that comes to mind.
- To learn the value and power of words.
- Lastly is just to observe. I am sure I will learn unexpected things. This can be a period of enlightenment, a time to learn about myself and others.
So here are the rules. I cannot talk to anyone. I should not mouth words unless absolutely necessary. I can write down things if they need to be communicated, but I should try to do this as little as possible. I can talk when it is absolutely necessary. These will be explained more once the experiment is over.
[RESULT OF SILENCE] It is now 1:30 a.m. on the third day of my silence. The experiment is over. It’s been nearly 72 hours and I’m not going to learn anything else. This was a very enlightening time. Please, read my results.
I want to make this clear. It wasn’t about not communicating. It was about listening. I carried a pad and pen with me so that I can communicate with others. Some have suggested that this hindered my experiment, but I disagree. If I had something to say I could write it down. Writing it made me think longer about what it is I wanted to say. This helped me control my thoughts and hopefully, my tongue. I did charades and tried sign language to communicate. I was told that if something is important enough to write or sign, then it should be worth saying. I say no, because if I did this, more and more would become “important” enough to say. My comments might lead to whole discussions in which I might dominate the conversation. That WOULD hinder my experiment, so I refrained from that just to safe guard myself. And, to justify this, I hardly wrote anything. I have a legal pad that fits in my pocket and I had written only five pages (front only) in three days. That is very little.
Another thing is that there were times when I had to talk. In my psychology class I had to lead a class discussion for a large part of my grade. When I ordered lunch at meal exchange, I needed to make clear what I wanted. Not because I think the lady would think I’m weird, but because it would be frustrating and almost rude to her. I have called my family in the last three days because my self-management project (20% of my final grade) depends on it. These things don’t hinder my project, so they were okay. Also, I limited myself to some choice spoken words that were thought out and few.
I was asked if I could do this full time. My findings, I think, say that I could. I kept track of everything I actually said. I wrote down every time I said something that I had to say, everything I thought deeply about before I said it (class comments, comments at my Focus and Small group meetings) and every time I said something on accident. On Monday I said seven things on accident. On Tuesday I said five things on accident and today (Wednesday) I only said one word on accident. This leads me to believe that I could do this full time. So, ponder this. If I did become relatively silent and only spoke when I had to or when my words were thought out, every single thing I said would be valuable, meaningful and important. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
[CONCLUSION] Other findings I found would seem relatively obvious, but when experienced as I experienced them, being a neutral observer, they became so much more apparent.
- I value the words-relationship I have with my girlfriend and others. I grow and build trust with others through words.
- People talk, not usually because they have something valuable to say, but because they crave attention. This I found bothersome. It isn’t always a ‘problem’ but it can become one. After thinking about it, attention builds our ego, a larger ego makes us happy, and people are all about making themselves happy.
- People will only listen to you and your current story until it triggers something they want to say. They will then either interrupt you or close their ears until you to take a breath so they can get their word in. And once they are finished, most often, the interrupter won’t ask the original storyteller to finish their story. I hate seeing this happen. The original storyteller is left feeling unimportant. What selfish people we are.
- There is a difference between hearing and listening. I knew this going in, but I found it to be even more noticeable when I learned I was failing at my own experiment. I went so many hours just being silent and not listening. When I did open my ears to all the sounds around me and listened, it was beautiful. So many unique voices, so many interesting sounds. The clank of keys on my thigh, the murmur of the cafe, the music we make daily with everything around us. The wind has a sound we often miss as well and falling leaves have a sound of their own.
- Another interesting find: I never broke my silence when I was spoken to. I only accidentally broke it when a thought came to my mind and I couldn’t stop it before it left my mouth.
- Many things we say are prompts to praise. Other times we put ourselves down so that others will lift us up. What good is a compliment if we have to prompt others to give us one? An unprompted compliment means so much more.
I have to tell the truth. I did not make it to the full 72 hours. Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, I had to study for a Western Civilization test. I then helped a friend with a problem. I then decided that the fellowship and opportunity to witness at small group was more important than my project. After that I went and had someone quiz me on my Western Civ. By then I had been talking for so long, each time for an important reason that I was back to talking again. It was 12 a.m. by this time, and I had only two hours left. I thought I would finish these last two hours in silence, but my friend had something he needed to talk about, so there went that. But all in all, I still went three days and every time I spoke it was for significant reasons. I learned so much from this. I encourage anyone to do this. But know going in that it is hard. On day two I was dying. I wanted to scream just to hear my voice. It was torture and I truthfully hated it. I thought about quitting, but realized that enlightenment came through suffering. So I continued. I am without a doubt glad I did.
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