There are many types of silences…

Silence can be positive or negative in our communications. It can take the form of the silent treatment, which most of us have both received and delivered at some point in our lives with negative consequences. It can take the form of compassion and peacefulness, demonstrating a positive influence in a relationship.

Positive Silence
The ability to be comfortable with silence is necessary in relationships.

Healthy silence can show a level of vulnerability and comfort within a relationship. There are times when one or both individuals may need a break from verbal communication, just being content in each other’s space.

Healthy silence can be utilized when a person is angry and escalating. Keeping quiet can ease tension, allow you to consider what to do or say next and ultimately may be a way to get closer to one another. It can allow enough space for the person to determine if the other’s anger is about something other than themselves. Often such a realization eliminates the impulse of a negative response. There are times when keeping your unfiltered or impulsive thoughts and comments to yourself can extinguish a damaging situation before it begins.

Being able to share silence together can be relaxing. It can be a sign that the two of you are comfortable with one another and do not need to constantly “entertain” each other to remain connected. It doesn’t mean that you are bored with each other and have run out of things to talk about. It can be that you are comfortable enough with one another to share some peaceful silence.

Silence can make a relationship stronger.  When your focus is on listening rather than talking, you will have an opportunity to actively hear what the other person is saying.While a sign of a great relationship is being able to talk freely with each other about anything, silence ideally would come naturally for you as well.Being able to do things on your own without talking to one another is a way to show respect for each other as autonomous individuals.

Silence can be a way to show empathy and support. Sometimes there are no words that can be helpful. At these times, staying emotionally present and silent is often the best way to be there for someone. Simply sitting with the other can give them space to express their emotions. This demonstrates a deep form of intimacy. It is a way to show your empathy with the extreme sorrow or emotions they are experiencing. Rather than rushing in to make suggestions, there are times when your mere silent presence is the best way to help. With practice, one can develop an intuitive sense of knowing when silence is called for.

Staying silent in times of conflict, can prevent arguments and stop you from saying hurtful things. Sometimes, in the middle of an argument, emotions get high and we can end up reacting emotionally and say things we don’t really mean.

Deciding to stay quiet for a while can be beneficial. Taking time can allow you to calm down, to think about what you are feeling, what you want to communicate and refine it so that the message can be most effectively communicated without accusation, intensity or anger.

Negative Silence
Being silent is not the same as the “silent treatment”

When one intentionally stays silent out of anger or emotional friction, the only thing being communicated is that person’s anger and refusal to deal with the issue. While being silent may feel necessary, it is important to communicate why there is silence.

Responding with silence when someone needs verbal validation or encouragement can be devastating to a relationship. It is vital to communicate and understand what each person needs.Silence is key to good active listening. Letting silence and processing happen allows the listener to digest what they have heard and respond at the right time with a thoughtful reply.

Embracing silence is not easy, but it is an important part of healthy relationship communication.