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The power of silence
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Many people are uncomfortable with stretches of silence in a conversation.

The gamut of emotions run through our mind: Are they angry? When will they speak? What if they are upset?

So we seek to fill that silence.

Women especially worry about that silence - I am not disparaging my gender by saying that, either.

We want to nurture, calm and soothe.

If we think the silence is because someone is upset, we immediately want to jump in with words that will make it all better and fix it.

Silence can be terrifying.

If you have a toddler or a puppy that is quiet, you better go see what they are doing.

It may involve a small fire in the bathroom or your favorite shoes being used as a chew toy - I have had both happen in the midst of moments of quiet.

That pause after we ask a question - an abbreviated silence - can be deafening and tell us more than words will ever reveal.

It is in those moments that people are sometimes searching for the answer they think you want to hear and not the truth.

Of course, if the person not responding is my husband, chances are he just didn't hear me.

Selective hearing or unconscious ignoring can cause brief moments of silence.

But, I have learned silence can sometimes be a blessing.

Like if you are negotiating with someone, whether love or business.

It's kind of an old trick really.

One party gives their terms and anxiously awaits the other's acceptance.

When there is any delay in a response, we panic.

Should we settle where we are, lower our expectations, our dreams - all because of a pause?

Sometimes, we do.

We have to fill that void and say something, even when it is not in our best interests.

And usually, it hurts us. If not then, later on when we realize the person was agreeing to our terms but knew we'd cave if they paused.

I learned this trick as I thankfully did a few other lessons in life - when I was young and stupid.

There's no telling what trouble I was getting into that I just hadn't been caught doing yet, but Mama's intuition was on high alert and she was watching me closely through her haze of cigarette smoke.

She disapproved of me having friends who were older, claiming they would get me into trouble and usually she was right.

Not serious trouble, mind you, but serious in my scaredy-cat world.

I came home one evening after a night of cruisin' and found my Mama sitting in her spot on the couch, a stern look on her face.

Even though we have since decided RBF was hereditary in our family, her face was set in quiet a serious frame.

She didn't greet me when I walked in, either.

Preliminary silence.

"Hi, Mama," I said. "What are you doing?"

She frowned. It was kind of obvious she was chain smoking and doing a crossword puzzle while watching reruns of "Hunter" on TV.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

Her lack of response was troublesome.

Was something wrong?

Had I done something? If so, what?

Was she mad at me? If she was - why?

She was acting awfully peculiar.

"Is there anything you think you should share with me?" she asked finally.

Oh, sweet son of a biscuit eater - had someone snitched on something I had done?

And what was it exactly?

There a million little things I had done that I wasn't supposed to do.

Maybe a million is pushing it; but to Mama, she didn't care what it was. If I knew I wasn't supposed to do it and I did, I was still in deep trouble.

A sin, after all, was still a sin.

And that skinny woman could be scary when she had to be and her being silent as she exhaled smoke through her nose like a dragon was pretty darn scary.

I didn't know what she was talking about so I just started pouring out a list of possible crimes.

After three minutes of my confession, I finally stopped.

Finally, after what felt like an eternal silence, Mama said, "I was referring to the fact I found your bag of Reese's cups you had hid in your room. But, now that you have told me what you've been up to the last few weeks, you are grounded until Jesus returns."


I had been tripped up by her silence.

She was probably sitting there sucking the peanut butter out of one of those little miniature Reese's cups and I was thinking I was guilty the minute I walked through the door.

Silence, when used right, can be a powerful tool.

And as Mama found out, can tell you everything you needed to know.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."