Silence is golden, or so they say. There are times when we crave for silence above all else. In other moments silence can feel like the most awkward and uncomfortable situations we can imagine. For example, when we are among an unfamiliar group of people it can allow us to create doubts about ourselves in the eyes of those around us. Drawn out silences often give a powerful voice to all the insecurities we hold inside.
There are always those who are quick to fill the silence with anything possible just to avoid the tension or uneasiness. I admit I tend to let these people take over in crowded situations because I am a softer spoken person. I tend to like to observe larger situations until I feel comfortable. I will jump in when I feel more confident with those around me. There are also those who know me well who may think I never stop talking.
When I did my first number of sessions I immediately felt that it was my job to “fill the void” in quiet moments. The silences made me feel highly uneasy. I could feel myself growing internally anxious as the seconds ticked by. I struggled to come up with the right words in my mind and to find something “profound” to add to the discussion. I feared the client would find me incompetent if I did not respond in a meaningful way.
I began to have doubts about my ability. I saw the silences as my own failure to not know what to say. How could I not know how to find the right words? I brought my fears to my supervision group and found a valuable lesson there. The group illuminated the idea that from these silences there is a chance for thought and reflection. The silence can allow the client to process a thought that could be a key to their understanding of what is happening to them.
Silence can be uncomfortable for both parties, but it is also a powerful tool. We are not in the business of having all the answers. We are in this work to allow our clients to find the answers often hidden within their own hearts.
Nicole Michaud is a Counselor in training in Central Connecticut. She is also the voice behind the cooking Blog MyLoveForCooking.com