Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The State of Silence

In my previous post about silence, I wrote about what it's like when verbal communications break down. Silence can speak volumes, as the saying goes, and recently, I have discovered how potent silence is in professional settings. I am amazed at how much we as human beings communicate with each other without saying one word.

In my current position, my work space is located in a department where silence reverberates all around me. Since moving to my new location several months ago, I have had very few personal interactions with the people who work around me. I believe their silence towards me is mainly because I don’t have any work-related dealings with them. Saying a simple “hello” or just smiling at someone are daring moves; I am amused by their non-verbal rejections of simple politeness, because they seem ridiculous. I don’t go out of my way to communicate with them either, especially now. Through non-verbal communication, I understand they don’t want me to approach them and start a conversation. Their apparent lack of interest made me uninterested in pursuing an acquaintance with them.

There are three people who are exceptions to this -- when I see them, they have said hello and I have even had conversations with them. They have helped ease the awkwardness of my presence in their department, which I am grateful for. As for the others, I feel indifferent about their silence towards me. I don’t take it personally, because they don’t know me at all and I don’t know them. Some of them seem like nice people; I hear indistinct conversations they have with loved ones on the phone and their co-workers, I hear them laugh at jokes, and of course discuss work with other people in the company in productive ways. I realize that we just don’t have anything to say to one another, and that isn’t a bad thing. Ultimately, I understand and appreciate the silence, because at least it allows me to focus on my work.

How do you handle the "state of silence" in your lives?

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