The Silence is Deafening

“I’d tell you I miss you but I don’t know how,
I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.”

I recently bought the new album of one of my favourite singers, Taylor Swift, and the song ‘The Story of Us’ contained the above lyrics.

And it got me thinking about conflict – or the lack thereof, to be more precise. I think this phrase quite nicely sums up the strange effect that being non-confrontational can have on people.

When trying to work out how to go about this post, I did as any Year 7 debater would do and began with defining the key term. So, I asked Google to define ‘conflict’ for me, and although there were many differing suggestions ranging from “Conflict are an English anarcho-punk band” to “Conflict is a military board game”, the very first definition interested me.

Conflict: “an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals)”.

This troubles me. In order to explain the problem I have with this definition, here’s the one I think is more accurate: “a state of opposition between persons or ideas or interests”. Spot the difference?

I believe – and personal experience backs me up – that it is the conflict that is not “open” that is often the more significant.

I will admit, recent events in my life may be causing me to be biased in this sense. I recently went through a rather nasty falling-out with a couple of long-term friends. It was a slow build up, but culminated a few weeks ago when I decided enough was enough, and confronted them about how I felt. I was calm, rational and controlled; I gave them ample opportunity to respond; and I used all the ‘I statements’ they teach you about in Primary School for dealing with problems sensibly.

Their response was to end the conversation there and walk away. That was about three weeks ago, and no communication has occured between us since (not for lack of trying on my part).

The funny thing is, although I had been struggling in that relationship for around three years, the last couple of weeks in which we haven’t communicated at all feels like the most conflicted our ‘friendship’ has ever been.

The amount I have been able to perceive from their body language, facial expressions, actions and the simple fact that they have decided to ignore me, has been extraordinary. I have made discoveries about their personalities and had epiphanous moments of realisation as I recall moments in our relationship that I can now see in a different light.

It is ironic, but not talking to them has allowed me to ‘hear’, in a sense, who they really are. And for that matter, who I am and how I feel about myself and them.

I don’t regret losing their friendship. It has been a long road and I have actually come out of the whole experience a stronger, happier, more positive person than ever. But I can’t help but marvel at the contrast: my words had little effect on the situation. Their silence has given me the insight and closure I needed to move on.

I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.

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5 thoughts on “The Silence is Deafening

  1. Hi Motzie

    One of my favourite books is The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Have you read it?

    As I was reading your post about the silence being so loud it made me think of a line from the book that has always stayed with me – “The heart speaks through silence”. In the book, Reuven’s father tries to teach him to “learn to listen behind the words, to that which is not spoken.”

    Maybe through this silence from your friends you have had an opportunity to “listen” in a new way…

    Kim 😀

  2. Hi there Kim,

    I haven’t read it actually but it has been suggested to me before so I’ve found a copy and will start reading ASAP. I read ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ in Literature last year and it has some similar lines in it.

    That’s very true, I think it has worked out that way for me. It wasn’t until I heard those lyrics that it really occured to me so I just thought it was interesting and worth trying to put into words. I’m glad you were able to make some sense of it!

    Thanks for your feedback, comments are always greatly appreciated!

  3. Motzie,
    I really enjoy reading your blog and find it very insightful
    However I have a few concerns

    Struggling for three years…. what were you doing then for so long? Why did you stick around when all you wanted was out? Perhaps out of guilt we start venting when we cannot accept that others have clearly moved on? I strongly believe that there are two sides to every story… are you sure you have heard or contemplated theirs?

    Also, it’s a bit creepy to hear that you have watching their facial expressions and actions….hmm just saying
    Perhaps the responses we need to take are not those from primary school, we need to act like adults and accept that things don’t always turn out the way we want or that we had a part to play.
    Of course I understand that this must have been difficult, it would be for anybody to have to go through, but perhaps it’s for the best.

    What I do find so amusing is the line that you refer to from Taylor Swift
    ‘I’d tell you I miss you but I don’t know how’— it’s so sweet that you still miss them and they take up some of your blog space, I hope one day you intend to tell them this in person rather than a public forum blog, perhaps one day you will still be friends with them, maybe they want to be friends with you,

    then again ‘people are people and sometimes they change their minds’.

  4. Hi Nikki, thanks for the feedback. I’ll try and answer your questions as best I can, sorry if I start rambling.

    These two girls were the closest I had to best friends for a period of three years, but it was never smooth sailing. Thing is, it was also never ‘open’ conflict. Problems arose slowly and gradually, and it took a long time before I realised that the way I was being treated wasn’t normal. For a long time, I didn’t feel I had any other option. My year level was pretty set in its friendship groups and being the person I was at the time, I didn’t have the confidence or self-esteem to put myself in such a vulnerable position as to leave the only safety net I had and try and find a new group. I understand completely that there are always two sides to a story, but as I mentioned, I gave them ample opportunity on several occasions to explain themselves or talk to me about what was wrong or at least let me know what I had done to deserve their behaviour – and all of these chances were refused. They are not people who deal well with confrontation, so they tended to ignore me and sulk and their behaviour would get worse if I tried to talk to them about it.

    I don’t think “creepy” is really a necessary description. I wasn’t stalking them and watching their every move! But when your two closest friends suddenly stop talking to you and will sit next to you in a classroom and refuse to make or accept conversation, you don’t have much of an option. I simply meant that I noticed things like eye rolls and knowing looks between them etc when I would try to talk to them, nothing more.

    I also don’t believe I took a Primary School approach to this issue, I simply meant I used the skills of expressing myself calmly and rationally that have been drilled into me since I was that age. I rather pride myself, in fact, on how I managed the situation in what I believe was a very mature way. I know that things are not always going to work out the way I hope they will, and I was perfectly willing to accept that I may have played a part in this falling out – but I couldn’t see what it was and they refused to tell me, so I moved on.

    Hmmm, I contemplated whether or not to put that line in – in the end I opted to, mainly for the sake of the rhyme in the lyrics. In all honesty, I am so much happier now that I don’t really miss them that much. I miss the friendship we did have, but I don’t think I really miss them.

    I suppose that’s true. Sorry for going on for so long but I think it’s important that I explain myself.

    Thanks for the feedback and for reading my blog, I’m glad you enjoy it despite these concerns – and I hope you will continue to do so.

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