We talk about many sorts of pollution in our world, but one we don’t talk about enough is noise pollution. There is a reason we nod our heads in agreement with the old proverb, “Silence is golden.” It is because in our fast-paced and increasingly noisy world, we know that silence, like gold, can be rare. Unlike gold though, we can create more silence in our lives if we choose. But it does require choice. Exactly why is silence so valuable? Let me share some important reasons why choosing more silence will serve you in your life and work.
More Silence Makes One a Better Human Being
First, here are some values of silence for us as individual human beings:
- Silence can regenerate brain cells. This should be reason enough to add more silence to your life. A 2013 study in mice compared the effects of different noises and silence on the rodents' brains. Researchers intended to use two hours of daily silence as a control in the study. Instead, they found that this led to the development of new cells in the hippocampus, a key brain region associated with learning, memory, and emotion.
- Silence relieves stress and tension. You don’t need research to know this is true. It could be as short as during that deep breath before you respond, or a longer, more measurable period. Silence can reduce stress and improve mental health.
- Silence enhances memory consolidation. Times of silence can help our brains move to default mode network activity, which helps us process and build experiences into our memory bank.
- Silence helps us remain present and mindful. When we slow down our brains with silence, we live in the current moment more effectively. We create more meaning in those moments, giving us fodder for introspection and learning.
More Silence Makes One a Better Leader
- Silence improves our listening skills. When we stop talking, we have the chance to truly hear what our team members are trying to say. Our silence also demonstrates that we care about their message and will slow down enough to listen to them.
- Silence helps us make better decisions. Silence gives us space to think and consider more angles and perspectives of a situation. More reflection leads to better and more informed decisions.
- Silence enhances our presence. When we cultivate silence as a practice, we will be calmer. This peace builds trust with others – both in our abilities and our openness to make time for them.
- Silence provides space for reflection. I have often written about the power of reflection as a tool for learning and growth. As leaders, we need to keep learning and growing. Self-reflection is one of the best ways to do that.
- Silence helps us empower and build the confidence of others. By resisting the urge to fill every moment with our thoughts and ideas, we give others the opportunity to share their ideas and solutions. When can they do that if we are always talking?
There is restoration, revitalization, and reflection available to us when we put more silence in our lives. You can do this by taking a vacation to a remote spot or hiking in a wildlife preserve. But if we wait for silence in some other place, we are missing the point. We can create more silence where we are now.
Turn off the devices, turn off the speakers, put down the phone. Perhaps pick up the noise cancelling headphones – with nothing attached to them. Stop the activity and allow silence to be a welcome part of your life. Talk less and wait. Allow silence to help you and your conversations. Slow down a little (or maybe a lot). Now that you know them, start reaping the benefits of silence today.