When conflict is all around, resolution seems distant, and the voices ring loud, sometimes the best way forward is to say nothing silence.
As a mediator, I’ve found silence can be an effective pattern interrupt technique, a way to break impasse, especially if the parties in a dispute aren’t listening well, are locked onto negativity, the conversation seems to be going around in circles.
Silence may be golden, yet, it can be a tough sell, both to yourself, and/or to others. At times, the pressure can feel enormous, to engage, right now.
Silence can be a powerful signal that something is not right. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, written almost 50 years ago, re-shaped our relationship with nature, and did so building on her awareness of silence that things weren’t quite right out there. It is an amazing book. I was deeply moved by it.
There is undeniable power in silence, both on a personal, internal level, in leaving space for personal reflection, and in listening to and/or influencing others. Artists know that. Great speakers know that.
And protesters at a northern California university know that, witness this video their response to a pepper spray incident the day before, connected with the protestors show of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Credit goes to Catherine Morris for these links)
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How that silent protest alters the dynamics of protest and violence at the University of California Davis is still to be played out.
Regardless, silence these days, is almost always a pattern interrupt, and pattern interrupts are a way to break impasse.
What do you think of the protesters use of silence?
What is your favourite example of using silence as a way to break impasse?