Caroline M's blog: Hugging The Silence
When the first lockdown finished and restaurants finally reopened, myself and my husband booked lunch. When we got there, my husband stopped me at the door and said – “they will ask your name. Just give them your name and do not panic.” I think of this moment so much because it highlights two things – my husband’s unrivalled wit, and my inability to stick to just answering the question at hand.
It really was the first time I stopped to think about it, and I have noticed this weakness so much since. I’m not sure at what point it became second nature for me to pad out the answers with a stockpile of pleasantries; ‘gosh it’s cold out today’, ‘has it been busy? ‘, ‘I have a scarf just like that!’ But it was definitely something I was taught to do over years, from teachers, from society, from ‘has the cat got your tongue?’. I’ve always felt it was the polite thing to do to form a rapport.
I started my new role in June of this year. I’ve tried so hard to embrace remaining silent in meetings - I can physically feel my body fighting not to speak for the sake of it. I’m learning the art of just answering the question posed. I’m now appreciating this is not a reflection of laziness, lack of preparedness, rudeness, or any other ‘ness’ that was part of the coaching behind my verbose responses.
From a social perspective in work, I’m really trying to just make that cup of coffee while the person beside me also comfortably makes their coffee, without launching in to a minute by minute review of the weekend just gone.
It’s also proving to be a useful skill to hone in a household with young children. In more serious tones, we have had the recent challenge of explaining death to the girls. Answering their questions succinctly, without giving them too much information that leads to saturating them with worry has been a winning strategy - one that comes naturally to my husband, but I’m still working on it.
In more light tones, where Santa’s magic is being scientifically challenged, I have found giving bare-bones responses has been effective. I’m slowly realising that the less explanation I give, and the less dramatic statements I make surrounding Father Christmas, the more likely it is that my girls will form their own image and understanding of Christmas enchantment and buy in to the joy that comes with it.
There is a beautiful film called “An Cailín Ciúin” (‘The Quiet Girl’ in English) that came out this year. There is one line in particular that has stuck with me,
“Many’s the person missed the opportunity to say nothing.”
I have reflected on this statement quite a lot recently in moments where my mouth is getting ready to speak, but my head and heart are telling me not too. Instead, they are reassuring me to comfortably Hug the silence.
Caroline M works in Investment Risk at an Asset Manager in Dublin. She recently relocated with her husband, two wonderful and resilient girls age 7 and age 4, as well as their ‘proving to be popular’ dog.