They say silence is golden. And this is true. In fact, our Sages have shared in numerous ways the significance of silence. One such expression from our Sages is mentioned in Ethics of Our Fathers. The teaching says, Seyog l’chochma shtika, that the fence to wisdom is silence. Now, this word chochma, wisdom, refers to a specific type of intelligence or wisdom, and that is when a person is innovative or a person brainstorms, that’s what chochma is.
And the reason why silence is a fence, it protects a person’s ability to be innovative and to brainstorm. Because when a person is silent, they are not busy expressing themselves. And when we’re not busy expressing ourselves, we leave room to hear what’s coming from beyond us. It opens us up to innovative ideas, to things which are above us. And that is one of the powers of silence.
There’s something else which we achieve with silence, which is extremely powerful, and that is that when we are silent, we are making room for another person. You know, you cannot listen while you’re talking but you can listen when you’re silent. When we are listening to another, we are making room for another. And this is the power of silence, the ability to give another person their space. And so at every single moment of our lives, we are actually making this choice of taking space or making space. And when we’re silent, we are making space.
So many times I’ve met with someone, and they shared an issue or a problem and I simply listened to them, I did not share any advice. And at the end of our discussion, they thanked me profusely for the tremendous help I’ve been to them and the advice I’ve given them. You know what advice I gave them? The advice of simply being silent so that they can be and express themselves. In fact, I myself have personally experienced numerous times that when I shared a problem with a friend and they simply listened to me, at the end of sharing the problem, I had the solution and I thanked them. Because simply by them letting me be me and express myself, it all came together. That’s the power of making space for another person.
And so while it is absolutely important for us to take up space at different times, we should never overlook the power of making space for another person. And we cannot make space for another person until we learn how to be silent for them.
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