Interpreting Silences, an Art that Almost Nobody Knows

To interpret the silences properly, it is important to tune in more with the logic of the other, than with our fears and fantasies. Silence always says something, but in conflictive situations it is healthier to go to the floor.

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Interpreting silences is not easy; they do not always have a meaning and, when they have it, finding it requires self-confidence and knowledge of the other. Therefore, in reality, it is a true art that tests our insecurities, complexes and explicit or implicit desires.

Let’s start that not everything can be said. There are feelings or experiences that escape words. They do not find a way of expression and, therefore, they become a kind of silence “full” of content. It is not the kind of silences that we are going to refer to, they simply correspond to the impossibility of communicating everything.

The kind of silence we are going to talk about is deliberate. The one in which one person demands a response from another and does not obtain it. Interpreting the silences of someone who does not want to talk then becomes something else. Silence is a way of saying, without saying. The problem is: what to say? Let’s see this in more detail.

“Silence is the loudest noise, perhaps the loudest of noises.”

-Miles Davis-

Interpret the silences of someone who does not want to talk

To know the art of interpreting silences, the first thing we want to emphasize is that these give rise to an asymmetric situation. At one end of the communication is someone who demands an expression, an answer or a saying. In the other pole is who is silent and has the power to respond or not to that expectation. This, of course, gives you a power over the other.

Now, the intention of silence is sometimes positive and sometimes it is not. It is positive when silence is a way to take a moment to reflect or when you want to avoid an embarrassing situation, for example. It is not if the intention is to ignore the needs of the other or enjoy the share of power that this generates, or perhaps hide something.

For those who expect communication it is never easy to interpret the silences. In these cases, it is very easy for fears, insecurities and unsatisfied desires to surface. Those who fear being rejected, for example, could interpret silence as a sign of rejection. Or he who fervently desires to be loved, may think that silence contains a strange way of corresponding to his affections. It is easy to fool ourselves when the other is silent.

Silence as an expression of bewilderment

Frequently, what a silence expresses is confusion. It demands a response or a saying that the other does not have. He does not know how to answer and that is why he avoids that his words commit him to something that may not be exactly what he wants to say.

In that case, what prevails is insecurity and doubt in the other. It is not uncommon that this corresponds to a way of not “showing the face”; of not answering for the acts. In those who are silent, there are dualities that prevent them from constructing a coherent message that they can communicate.

Shut up as a sign of rejection

There are also those silences that have a rejection component. What silence expresses in these cases is that one of the parties does not want to maintain communication with the other. It does not respond, because there is no interest in maintaining a communicative chain with those who demand the response or expression.

It happens frequently when someone wants to establish or maintain a loving relationship with another, but the latter does not want the same. Silence is a way of cutting with that line of communication that leads to a loving encounter. It also happens in all those cases in which there is a demand that the other can not satisfy.

Say and do not say

Interpreting the silences becomes a double-edged sword when we let those silences populate with ghosts. To do it correctly, we need empathy. Look at the other from their own context, put ourselves in their place and approach what they want to express when they are silent. We will never have an exact answer, but it is possible to understand the general idea.

Everyone has the right to speak or to silence if they wish. It is important to understand this. It is also important to know that talking is always healthy, particularly in situations that involve a seed of conflict.

Faced with problematic situations, it is much more valid to search and find the words that best express what we feel and think. Assume positions, as clear as possible, and communicate them.