Social Question

bookish1's avatar

Do you enjoy the silence?

Asked by bookish1 (13069 points ) July 21st, 2012

How do you feel about silence and pauses in the conversation when you are hanging out with friends or acquaintances? Do you feel the need to fill in all the gaps? Do they make you anxious or uneasy? Or do you enjoy silence in the presence of others sometimes?

During this and my previous stay in Paris, I’ve noticed that people who grew up here seem to have horror of silences in conversation. Last night at a bar, I was asked a number of times if I was “bored,” just because I happened to be in a pensive mood and was more inclined to listen and observe rather than speak and crack jokes every ten seconds. And the people I was hanging out with seemed downright uneasy and almost embarrassed when we hit the end of a conversational trail and we didn’t have anything to talk about for a moment.

I prefer being able to enjoy silence in the presence of other people, and speaking when I am moved to do so, not because I feel that a social situation requires it. But I’m thinking this is a cultural thing as well as an introversion thing!

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34 Answers

jerv's avatar

It depends. If you pause because you are considering your next words, I appreciate that. If you pause mid-sentence and keep me in suspense, I may not be around by the time you complete your thought. Timing is….

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crucial.

jrpowell's avatar

I have a few friends that I consider my best friends. I love that we can share silence. It isn’t awkward. It isn’t like we are looking at each other waiting for someone to say something. If something comes up we will talk about it. We can just sit in the same room and do our own thing.

harple's avatar

I tend to adapt to the different friends’ needs. I have probably 3 close friends that I can share comfortable silences with, and it is lovely to be able to do that. I have other friends that couldn’t cope with that, and so with those we keep the conversation chatty. With them, that is also lovely.

bookish1's avatar

@jerv: Haha, good
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one, man.

@johnpowell : That is what having best friends feels like to me, too.

@harple : Interesting. That’s cool that you are sensitive enough to adapt to your different friends’ needs. I guess my closest friends all tend to be pensive introverts just like me, haha.

ucme's avatar

Yes I love Depeche Mode.

blueiiznh's avatar

I am ok with the silent lucidity.

this_velvet_glove's avatar

Usually I just listen, listen, listen and don’t talk much. And silence is not a problem, there have to be some moments of silence. Noone can keep on talking forever :p

Mariah's avatar

I used to find pauses in conversation very awkward. Not anymore, though, which has made conversation easier for me. I like that I can sit in comfortable silence with a good friend. I tend to talk pretty slowly and will stop and search for the right word sometimes.

thorninmud's avatar

What makes me uncomfortable is not the silence, but the squirmy feeling it triggers that I ought to say something. Conversation doesn’t come easily for me; even with friends, it’s work. I very quickly run out of stuff to say. I guess I see this as something of a failing on my part, and I compare myself unfavorably with people who can effortlessly keep a conversation going. I’m somewhat in awe of that ability to always find words.

So when those gaps arise, it brings up those feelings of inadequacy for me. I have a feeling of letting my interlocutor down, as if they’re waiting for something that I’m unable to deliver. To get Freudian about it, it’s like verbal impotence.

downtide's avatar

@thorninmud I am exactly the same. I find it really difficult, if not impossible, to make small-talk.

gailcalled's avatar

After having spent years in a Quaker community, where the silences were part of all conversations and a sign of respect, I miss them.

I wish that more of my new friends were comfortable with it.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I do enjoy silence, but I am also an extrovert and have had the same reactions over the years when I become quiet. Everyone starts hovering around asking me if I am okay. lol
Jeez…ya know, even us babbley wonders enjoy silence. It was especially funny at family get togethers as I was counted on to liven up the party and me going silent was so noticeable. haha

gailcalled's avatar

@thorninmud: What would Freud call “writer’s potency” (which you have in spades)?

When the silences feels too leaden, simply tell your interlocutor that you’ll send him a note.

FluffyChicken's avatar

I kill the silence on sight.

On a more serious note… it depends on which friend. There’s some friends who I’m comfortable being silent with, but if it’s a new friend, or a date, then I get squirmy.

thorninmud's avatar

@gailcalled Well that’s the beauty of Fluther for folks like me: it’s conversation via note-passing. It plays to my strength (organization of thoughts and words) and downplays my weaknesses (verbal spontaneity and fluency).

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Hi, I’m Gail. Looking for a hot time thrilling conversation? Call 1–800-555-MILO.

harple's avatar

Just seen a shared Arabic Proverb on facebook, which is nicely relevant here:

“Open your mouth only if what you are about to say is more beautiful than silence.”

Sunny2's avatar

Generally, I’m a better listener than talker. Every talker needs one. I ask questions to keep the conversation going, but I’m also comfortable with silence.

Coloma's avatar

Most of my friends tend to be introverts but, they always tell me they enjoy listening to me babble on about everything. lol
My daughter is an extrovert like me and dear freaking gawd…we can talk on the phone for 3 hours and it seems as if it has only been about 30 minutes.
Since extroverts get energized by lively interactions I have learned to not have late night marathon chat sessions, I’ll be up all night. haha

hearkat's avatar

I enjoy it. I arrived early to a Dr’s appointment and was the only one in the waiting room. Apparently, the receptionist was uncomfortable with me just sitting quietly… she felt compelled to lean through the window and ask if I wanted to read a magazine, as if I didn’t see them sitting on the table right next to me.

My fiancé and I are both introverted, so we are silent more often than not. My other close friends are far more talkative and extroverted, so I mostly just listen with them.

I recently finished reading the book ’Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence’ and the author looks at how different cultures view those gaps in conversation, among other things. It was a very interesting read.

YARNLADY's avatar

In conversations, I hate it when everyone stops talking. With friends, when we get together, there is no such thing as silence.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Ι love the sounds of silence!

Shippy's avatar

Yes I don’t mind the silence at all. I find it highly annoying to be asked “if I am OK?” when I am quiet. One person, almost nagged me for an hour. “Are you sure you are OK?”.

and ‘Are you upset’. I was so wanting to get rid of her. I felt she was fundamentally flawed and I was right! As she later proved to be.

bookish1's avatar

@Shippy: That exact same thing happened to me the other night as well. This guy kept asking me if was ok, if I was upset, if I was bored. It just made me want to run away!

athenasgriffin's avatar

Usually I’m okay with silence, but sometimes it annoys me. If I put in the effort to keep my part of the conversation going and you just sit there not contributing anything, I am apt to not want to spend time with you.

Bellatrix's avatar

Yes, I do enjoy the silence. I think if you are comfortable with the other person, it is one of the great joys of life to be able to sit together and be in the moment without having to fill it with noise. I am a real chatterbox but when my husband and I travel, I rarely speak. I just want to watch the scenery, people and enjoy the experience. Similarly, there is nothing more wonderful than sharing a coffee and watching the people around us or to sit in the garden and watch the birds and other living things busy about their day with someone who knows me well enough to just enjoy the moment.

bewailknot's avatar

I enjoy the silence. It is a rare thing in my life, so all the more precious. Most of my coworkers tend to chatter endlessly, and the younger kids at home are always wanting to share something with me. My best friend and I are both people who appreciate companionable silence.

Haleth's avatar

Holy crap. Now I’m going to have Depeche Mode stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@haleth, not after you see this. One of the most memorable moments of silence I have seen is in this video at 3:41 to 3:44.

linguaphile's avatar

To me “silence” is when almost all forms of stimulation have been quietened. I can’t hear at all, so I live without sound 24/7. It might seem bizarre that I enjoy living my life this way, but I do. So, for me, when there’s no sound, there are still trillions on trillions of things to see, taste, smell and feel—in texture and vibrations both. It’s sad that people depend so much on their hearing that they miss a trillion other things they could see if they stopped and paid attention.

After all—sound only goes so far. Light/vision goes for miles—if you can see stars, you can see light years away. Try hearing more than one city block away.

So, yes, I enjoy silence. When I want real silence, I turn all the lights off in a bathroom and lie in a warm tub of water.

That being said… the worst silence is when a conversation suddenly stops and turns awkward.

hearkat's avatar

@linguaphile: Like you, I consider ‘silence’ to mean little to no stimulation. In the example I gave above, the stimulation the receptionist was recommending was for me to look through a magazine. I can not experience silence, because I have tinnitus, so even underwater in the tub in a dark room, there is always sound. When we block out enough of the ambient noise, people with normal cochlear function can hear their breath and their pulse.

“It’s sad the people depend so much on their hearing that they miss a trillion other things…”
As an Audiologist, I find that people value their vision far more than their hearing. Because those who are born with normal hearing are exposed to sound in-utero, and since it is always there – even when we sleep at night – we generally take it for granted. Too few really comprehend how much sensory input our ears provide beyond conversational speech. Just as you are more in-tune with visual input than people who have hearing and vision, someone who is blind form birth could explain the myriad of sounds and all the information contained within it far better than I.

“Try hearing more than one city block away”
I currently am sitting on my deck outside our kitchen, and hearing an airplane fly overhead, the wind in the distance and getting closer until I finally feel it on my face, the roar of the highway behind me, the clanking in the auto-body shop that’s about a block away… Sound does travel very far, and we hear things beyond our line of sight. Hearing is “the eyes in the back of our head” because with normal binaural hearing, we have true surround sound. I just heard the floor creak inside the house, so even though I can’t see him, I know that my son just got out of his bed in the room above the kitchen. Now some birds are pitching a fit somewhere… it’s hard to tell because the wind is fairly steady, but I think it’s somewhere in front of the house.

When people who have essentially normal functioning for all senses are asked to hypothetically choose between vision or hearing, most say that they would rather be deaf than blind. I presume that is because being visually impaired does make a person more dependent for transportation and such. But once in a while you encounter those who would not be willing to give up music. There is no way to describe music to someone who has never heard, just as there is no way to describe colors to a person who has never seen.

JennyPrince's avatar

If I was on a date, I would be mortified by silence. However, when I go out to eat with my husband and we say nothing it is alright. We are just in our own little worlds.

luigigurl's avatar

Silence is only good for me if I’m sleep or during sexual activity. And even then, it isn’t really silence because there are noises associated with the act…..Other than that, I hate silence

Pachy's avatar

Yes, and my favorite kinds of silence are when the dogs next door stop howling, when a car alarm stop honking, when a ambulance siren stops wailing, and when I’m walking in the snow at night.

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