Unlocking the Power of Silence: A Lesson in Controlling

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“What should I say?”

My daughter held out her phone so I could see the screen. There was a peach emoji and the word ‘cake’.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“That I have a big butt,” the teenager said.

Another text popped onto the screen. I didn’t need an explanation this time to know the text wasn’t a compliment. I recognized “cappin bitch” wasn’t a compliment.

“What should I text back?” my daughter asked again.

“Don’t,” I said.”

The teenager rolled her eyes.

“What’s she doing right now?” I asked about the girl that had been sending the insults.

“I don’t know,” my offspring shrugged irritated.

“She’s staring at the screen waiting for you to respond,” I said.

My daughter nodded slightly in begrudging agreement. 

“What does she want?” I asked. My daughter finally admitted that the other girl wanted a reaction.

“Don’t give her one,” I said. “Don’t let her think that she affects you. You have control right now. She’s sitting there staring at her phone. Probably getting more and more angry that you don’t seem to care.”

This conversation happened several years ago. All my children have learned there is power in not responding. I’ve tried to instill in them the following principles:

  1. When you’re feeling emotional, you risk saying something imprudent or distasteful. Staying silent gives you time to think and find out what others around you are thinking. My daughter quickly discovered that there were a lot of friends in her friend group that did not think she had a peach cake for a butt.
  1. Speaking makes you blend in, while staying quiet sets you apart. Diamonds and gold are admired not for their intrinsic value, but for their scarcity. Similarly, your words can be like gold when they are valuable and concise. Keep people interested and make sure what you say brings value to your audience. Rare words hold more importance than constant chatter.
  1. To uncover more about people, simply listen. Silence often prompts others to share their thoughts and emotions, allowing you to understand them better. You will be more successful in whatever you want to do by understanding others better.

Teaching my children this does not mean they are the silent ones in the room or that they don’t chatter non-stop on road trips. Teaching my children this has taught them that there is a time to be quiet.

They’ve heard me quote Texas Bix Bender:

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

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