“Don’t be afraid of the silence. Embrace it.”

A few weeks ago, as part of my market research class, my professors brought in an ‘insights expert.’ I put that in quotes because they made air quotes before introducing her and because she later went on to tell us she was actually a moderator for a consumer research firm. She was paid by companies to learn what their potential customers wants and needs were. Probably, above all- what would make them buy their product or purchase their service.

She was a wiry blonde with even fingers that seemed pointed and smart. She was an expert at asking why, probing others for more and getting from them the insights her clients needed. When she said those words it wasn’t as if I had some epiphany moment, but they must have really stuck with me beyond that class.

Four nights later, I heard those same words come tumbling out of my mouth in the midst of an uncomfortable first date. I literally said them and then began laughing out loud to myself after they were out in the air. My date, a chocolate Old Navy mannequin in an Brooks Brother’s argyle sweater, looked at me like I had lost my mind but not even his blank stare could stifle my laugh.

I think it’s fascinating how words stay with us. Even more fascinating when they leap beyond their context and apply to our lives. For me, not being afraid of the silence is not only a technique for market research, it’s a tool for dealing with incompatible men and a personal mantra as well.

As someone who is in a life-long affair with words, it’s hard for me to accept that I won’t always be able to find the right ones. But in those moments when I want to stretch to find just the right expression, I am learning that everything I hope to express can come from the pauses in between.

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Today, choose silence instead of seeking to fill the void. What you hear in that stillness might surprise you.

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