When Silence Can Be Golden in Social...

When Silence Can Be Golden in Social Situations

by Marianne Stephens
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Silence is definitely golden when it comes to social situations, especially when you don’t know exactly what is going on. There are many different reasons why this awkward situation may come up, such as gossiping about other friends or co-workers, but it all comes back to one key word: miscommunication.

Essentially, miscommunication is the bane of social situations. This can happen in many ways.  I’ll give an example to help demonstrate why silence can be golden: gossip and a lack of knowledge.

High school life is an excellent example of gossip. You can very easily hear two, three, sixteen different versions of the same event, all told by different people. This happens in real-life police investigations as well, as you have to figure out who is telling the truth and who is not. For example, a classmate of yours has been bullied for months now. Now, rumours are flying over the details of the bullying, why the bully did it, and what the bully is going to get (suspension, expulsion, etc.) Now, this is a completely fake scenario I am talking about, but cases like these exist. If I was a neutral person, with no emotions attached to these people, I would keep silent.

Here’s why: I don’t want to add to the gossip mill over what actually happened so the people can keep investigating over what happened and what didn’t happen. For example, what if the bullying didn’t last as long as the gossip said it did? What if the bullying was not as “tame” as the gossip said, but much worse? What if the person who was hurt was actually the bully, and turning the tables to the people investigating the incident? (There are several mystery books that take this on as a theme: playing ‘victim’.)  That doesn’t happen all the time.

This is why silence is golden: further gossip creates more miscommunication, hurting the people involved even more. Especially if the person who was hurt gets hurt more because there’s this fog of rumours that make other outsiders doubt the truth. And this doesn’t help anyone involved.

Another type is not bully-related. Instead, it’s a social situation and you’re at a complete loss to what your friends are discussing. This is where the silence-is-golden rule comes into play. You would like to be involved; I understand that, but what if you are talking about something else and not what they are talking about? What if you accidentally insult someone? What if your political views don’t match up with the group? There are many different questions to ask here, so silence can be golden until you know for sure: it’s safe to talk without causing an incident, someone gives you an opening to ask questions, or you finally understand what people are talking about. For me, personally, I like to wait for an opening to ask a broad question that helps get me a brief summary of the topic, so if I don’t understand what they are talking about, I can look it up at another time.

These two examples are ideas I had for how to demonstrate the silence-is-golden rule. Another minor example would be if you talk a lot and how to allow people to bring up their ideas, which is always welcome for group projects. By listening to the social situations, you can help those who are involved avoid miscommunication and to help to get their point across as honestly and clearly as possible.

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