Calvin Coolidge was perhaps the least loquacious politician ever. The most famous example of his “Silent Cal” persona is of Dorothy Parker trying to goad him into conversation by remarking: “Mr. Coolidge, I’ve made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” His reply: “You lose.”
Coolidge’s advice is something I’ve learned about the hard way – talking too much has cost me trust, respect, and even love. In the past, lulls in the conversation would make me very uncomfortable. Instead of taking an extra beat or two to consider how to answer (or not), I’d feel the need to fill the silence immediately. Just about anything could — and did — come out of my mouth.
After several catastrophes, I have finally become at least somewhat comfortable with silence in a conversation. As a wise post (here) on the power of silence notes:
Ben Franklin said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still is to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Silence allows us to keep a secret, to serve as a peacemaker, and to learn the deeper meaning about what is being said.