There is a tiny little space that can make all the difference in our relationships, according to The Book of Me. (That’s not really a book (yet) but it is more fun to say than “in my opinion.”) The results of creating this minute space can ripple far beyond the immediate.
What exactly is this space? I call it the Quiet Space—the time between listening to what someone has said to you and replying to it. It is that time where we have heard what the other person has said, processed it (at least in part), and thought about what our reply should be. Because our brains are so amazing, this only takes a moment, but it can be a truly powerful one.
I’ve lived enough years and paid enough attention to life to know that a common thing pretty much everyone wants is to feel truly heard—to be understood. I know I do. Maybe that’s why I love writing so…it is filled with quiet spaces of thought and a desire to be understood.
I also have enough self-awareness to know that I am guilty of thinking of the next thing I want to say rather than giving my full attention to the one speaking. This is particularly evident in an argument—when I am busy getting my next line of defense in order, rather than digesting what words are coming my way.
Very human…and also very frustrating.
If two people are not allowing for quiet space, they are merely speaking at each other, not to each other and will most likely find this as satisfying as slapping their respective heads against the wall. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there and have the flat foreheads to prove it.
With a little quiet space and a feeling of being understood, arguments can slow down and maybe even come to a resolution (a what?) rather than adding logs to the fire.
But the quiet space doesn’t just help end combat—it also acts as a net for those you love to know they can fall into.
Let’s peek in on this imaginary scenario: maybe you’re sipping a coffee at a local establishment doodling on your phone when the table next to you is having an intimate conversation. (I have to say, I think people at these places believe that each table is a soundproof room or something, because LOTS is shared…and loudly…so even though I want to play QI for the 3648 time on Words with Friends, I can’t help but overhear…)
The first friend shares, “I don’t know what to do. He said he’s done trying and wants out. I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
“Oh, it’ll be fine,” her friend responds. “He’s probably just trying to make a point. I can’t tell you how many times George has said something like that to me. I remember one time when…” and off she goes to tell her hurting friend about something from her own life, rather than truly digesting what her friend has said and responding to it.
Now, the “listener” isn’t a bad person…she’s just not letting her friend’s words get all the way into her heart. For whatever reason, we all too often respond with a “me, too” or a quick bit of advice, rather than letting the words sink in and register. With a little honoring of the quiet space, the chance to let some real compassion grow increases a bunch.
If the listener hears and processes why her friend is sharing, her response might take a totally different turn into something like, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. No wonder you’re confused—this is tough stuff.”
And instead of just swapping marital war stories, the friend now feels as though she has a safe place to share her hurt.
I think this can move mountains when it comes to connecting with one another.
Think of the impact we can have in our daily lives and the lives of those we care about with a little more quiet space and a little less need to fill the void with our own next (very important!) words.
Some quiet space goes a long way in letting real communication happen. It gives us the chance to understand the other person and measure our own response. What a wonderful opportunity!
And there is no risk involved—only the promise of gain. What an awesome investment of time.
Don’t neglect the power of the quiet space. It is in fact the absence of an immediate response that can speak the loudest of all. You gotta love the irony.