opinionBy Amina Alhassan
African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence, says Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai. But when really is silence necessary? Womanhood takes a look.
Silence, it is said, is golden. Others say it is the best answer to a fool. However you look at it, silence can be used and misused. It is even true that some use silence as a weapon in relationships, businesses and several other spheres of life. Scars from silence can be so deep. We may never know any of the reasons for it all. We have all been victims of silence at one point or the other in our lives. And I can bet till now the scars remain fresh even though they happened in the past.
Indeed, silence can mean different thing to different people. It can mean yes or no. It can imply contentment or dissatisfaction, safety, fear, ignorance or even arrogance. It can be accompanied by the smile of approval or the scorn of judgment depending on the message the person in question is trying to pass.
Individuals who are diplomatic in nature mostly use silence as a way of drawing an argument down, that is, to close it without them saying a word. They can effectively win an argument without having to say anything to the other person. That is how strong silence can be.
It is a different ball game to use silence arrogantly and using it effectively. Some silences can pass a whole lot of messages without one having to say anything. Some silences pass messages of correction while some display arrogance and ego.
Here are some situations that silence can be effectively utilized according to internet research
• During arguments. One of the most powerful things we can do during an argument is to stay silent. When someone is shouting at you, looking for an argument or just picking on you, you can literally take all the power away from them and keep all your energy by simply looking at them and saying absolutely nothing. This is extremely difficult to do but very powerful. At the end you have the upper hand and look mature to pothers that were around during the argument.
• Gossiping. When there is a crowd of people in the workplace there are bound to be gossips who speak about other people. The thing with gossiping is that it is contagious. When we don't like someone and someone else starts speaking about them we naturally tend to voice our opinion and even over do it. Try and stop yourself from catching the virus of gossiping and become silent whenever it occurs. If you are a gossiper yourself and people around start to notice that you are 'not your usual self', don't give an explanation just leave saying you've got work to do or whatever, pretty soon you'll be out of the gossiping loop.
• When someone is talking. Silence is a great tool for counselors if used in the right way. It's also great when listening to friends and family. Just let people talk and listen to them and use your facial expressions and movements to acknowledge that you are listening. This can be a tough thing to do but extremely powerful for both you, as the listener, and the talker. You will find that as you practice this, more people come to talk to you as you will be known as a good listener. Obviously there are times to speak during the conversation, however when you do, make sure it is to paraphrase what the talker is saying or asking questions to get more information, don't make it about yourself.
It is important to note here that total silence in the process of listening to someone's problem could also relay a different message to the person talking. He/ she might feel you are just making a mockery of her/him by not saying a word. So it is important that you try to chip in one or two words of sympathy or encouragement.
Silence could also be spiritual. The state of silence is a way of reaching another part of your mind not possible when going about your daily routine. There are days we wake up and not interested in talking but just want to be silent all through. It might be our body wanting a break to reflect on things that are important to us in life. What is important is that we don't hurt people in the process of our silence routine.
In some cases in marriage women are known to implore the silent treatment. The men too are also catching the fever of dolling out silent treatment to their wives. Silent rage or the silent treatment as it is mostly called, as punishment is toxic and threatening to the vitality of any relationship. It creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that makes safety, intimacy and couples and friends resiliency impossible. In this instance silence can do more harm than good.
Yes, there are times to talk. But there are times when conversation isn't necessary, and is even hurtful. There can be power and wisdom in not talking and biding your time, walking away, or simply shutting up and getting on with things. Wisely using the silent treatment can change a whole lot of things in our lives.