SilenceChristmas Eve wasn’t a silent night for me but December 3 was. That was the day I chose to keep silent. It wasn’t 100% silence. That wasn’t the goal; but rather to become more conscious of the words I do speak and their impact on others. I wanted to reduce the times that my speech was simply empty time fillers, especially words that at least subconsciously were aimed at self-aggrandizement, like “Yes, I go to Rome once a year, but the meetings are really tedious.” OR “I stayed up til 1:00 am last night writing a newsletter.” (The subtext of this is “Notice how hardworking and selfless I am, sacrificing my sleep for volunteer work.”) Here’s how my mostly silent day worked:


  • Choose a normal day. I confess that I cheated a little on this one. I chose a day that I didn’t have any meetings, talks, or conference calls. This is not normal, but I didn’t want to have to explain my silence or be rude. Since I work at home and my husband is usually the only other person in the house, I didn’t have many temptations. Perhaps I would have learned more if I needed to be more conscious of the times I did speak.
  • Inform your closest relationships. I told Jim and pinned a note on my sweater saying that I was not talking today
  • Don’t be rude. I decided that it would be rude not to answer people when they spoke to me. Also, since dinner is a connecting time for Jim and me, it would be rude not to talk during dinner.
  • When you do need to speak, choose words that are “few and full.”
  • After you speak journey inward to notice why you chose the words you did.
  • Choose a friend. No one took me up on my offer (at least no one told me they did) so I went solo.

Days 273 Extra - Cell phoneJUST THE FACTS:

  • Speaking Interactions: 13. Seven were phone calls. Three were with neighbors. Three were with Jim (including dinner).
  • Total Time: 44 minutes, 30 seconds. (Dinner conversation accounted for 20 minutes.)
  • Length: All but our dinner conversation were under 5 minutes.
  • Purpose: 8 interactions were to convey simple information like, “How do I fill out this time sheet?” “Is it too late for me to register for the dance?” “Is this the recycling truck or just the garbage truck?” One was to make an appointment. Two were to give Advent Calendars to neighbors with kids. One was to tech support. (Most of this was waiting time.)


  1. It’s hard to keep a focus on silence while around other people. If it were truly a normal day in which I were giving a talk or chatting with friends, I’d probably revert to old habits – such as too much information OR not enough listening, modeling, and focus on the other.
  2. BUT, this is not just about being quiet. It’s about being conscious of when I do speak. Maybe I need to tweak my talking by practicing mindfulness of speech occasionally in short spurts like when I’m in a meeting. By pausing before and after each comment, I might be better at curbing self-serving, complaining, or long-winded speech. I need to focus on the other’s need and not just “listen with my answer running.” Don’t be stingy with compliments and words of honor.
  3. Silence is easier if it is the expected norm. Once I went on a silent retreat at a Trappist Monastery. Silence was not difficult because everyone there has the same purpose. Silence at a play or movie is expected. Silence at a meeting, dinner, or party are not.
  4. Writing a few thoughts out in preparation for speaking helped me get to the point most succinctly and clearly.
  5. Silence gave me time to think before I talked. What does this occasion really ask of me? Is it information that is needed or simply affirmation, consolation, or a helpful action?
  6. Silence gave me time to wonder and marvel at things I might have otherwise missed – the fallen leaves, a spouse who is willing to tolerate my seemingly silly experiments…
  7. Waiting in silence can be productive (or at least be a chance to practice patience). Waiting for tech support gave me time to read emails and possibly solve the problem on my own. (The phone call took 45 minutes. Only 6 of these minutes involved me talking. A lot of it was waiting and pushing numbers on the phone.).

*Thanks to Joshua Becker’s blog for the inspiration for this post.