“There are times when silence is golden – other times when it is just plain yellow” -Ed Cole
I’ve always been a talker — far more than a listener — it’s been that way for pretty much my entire life. And while being an excellent talker has had its benefits and saved many an awkward situation, it has also occasionally lead to disengaged conversations and damaged relationships.
While I knew this was a significant area of development, I had a hard time identifying what exactly I needed to work on, and how I could improve the situation.
But with time, and the kind of wisdom that often comes from making major life changes, I’ve realized I need to learn to find greater comfort with silence, and appreciate not just the words of others, but also the spaces between them.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of being comfortable with being alone. I’ve always been an enormously social person – an extreme extrovert – which means I feel rejuvenated by being around other people. The inverse of that, though, is that I feel equally listless and downtrodden when alone.
But it’s OK to be alone. You could even say it’s necessary sometimes. It gives you time to reflect and sit with your own thoughts. It also makes you tougher, and clearer on your own view of the world. And when you are able to be alone and not feel lonely, it makes you appreciate it more.
I’ve grown up a lot, especially in the last two years, and I don’t feel alone as often anymore. Even when I am by myself, I don’t feel alone in my life. So along with feeling comfort with silence, I’ve been developing my comfort level with loneliness as well. They really do go together, and making progress with one can really help make progress with the other.
I wouldn’t say I’ve changed completely. I’m still that extrovert who feels enlivened by the presence of other people. But the way in which I utilize that now has evolved. I no longer depend on that social presence to feel good about myself.
Instead, I have learned to value my existence even when I am my only audience. I can appreciate the advantages of solid solo time to gather and process my thoughts. And then I can seek the company of truly caring, creative friends who can add color and energy to my own vision. I’ve learned I don’t need hoards of people surrounding me to validate my worth. I just need those special few friends and family who make a real impact on my life – and who I’m likewise able to give the attention they’re worth to make an impact in theirs.
It’s all about how we can continually add value to the world around us, and contribute something that makes a difference for others. Silence doesn’t mean the absence of impact. It just means the impact is being made in a different way. I’ve started to realize this, and will continue trying to learn and understand, as I become more comfortable with being alone in my own skin.