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September 17, 2011

A Companionable Silence

We've all heard of the concept of "companionable silence," when two people are sitting together, not talking, just enjoying the atmosphere around them. It's a concept that I'm not comfortable with, however. I don't know why that is. I've rarely been able to just sit there and feel that companionship with a person without the sounds of our voices.

(Thanks to Travel Adventure)

Some people love silence. They love just sitting with somebody and enjoying the act of being with them. No words are needed. It's not that they *won't* talk; it's just that there's no requirement for it. They are perfectly comfortable with the other person, no matter what is said or not said.

I wish I could be that way.

I understand the concept intellectually, of course. It's not like somebody's saying something in a foreign language if they mention it to me. I get it.

I just don't feel it.

It's a bit different with the wife, of course. We spend a lot of time together, and of course it's not filled with constant talking, though I do sometimes feel there is more than may be necessary on my part. We do enjoy our quiet time, though I usually have some noise going on, whether it's the TV or my games or whatever. I've never been a big fan of silence even when I'm by myself.

I'm more talking about time with friends, when you're having lunch or going for a walk or whatever. Something of limited duration, when you will be going back to work or to your own lives in a relatively short period of time. In those times, I find prolonged silence intensely uncomfortable. It almost feels oppressive sometimes.

Again, I KNOW that none of this is true. But it just feels like if there's silence, that's because there's nothing left to say. That the other person doesn't want to talk to you for whatever reason. Never mind the fact that, if they didn't want to be with you, they wouldn't have agreed in the first place to lunch or a walk or whatever.

When I'm sitting with somebody at lunch, and there's a silent lull, part of me (that insecure, neurotic part, I guess) is just waiting for them to say "well, I have to get back to work" or whatever, as a cover for them just wanting to get out of there. Like, "if you're not going to talk, then I've got better things to do with my time than sit here."

The thing is, I probably would enjoy just having their company. Ok, 30 whole minutes without a word spoken would be bad, but you get the idea. But often I just enjoy being with them, and I do like the feeling of companionship.

It's just that niggling fear underneath it all that they don't feel the same way that bothers me. Even though they've never given me any reason to think they feel differently.

I think there's an underlying reason for all of this, a comfortableness with the self that just isn't always there. We've all heard the phrase "comfortable in your own skin." I think that's a big part of it.

So if you consider me a friend and have noticed this, or we're online friends and we ever meet for the first time, I hope this explains a few things. I do try to make sure that what I say is at least interesting or relevant or something like that. I try not to be totally stupid about it. ("gee, it's really raining hard out there!") If you do notice it and it gets irritating, I'd prefer being told about it rather than you internally saying "this is the last time I'll meet up with him!"

Silence can be a good thing, especially when the alternative is inane chatter created just to fill that void of emptiness.

I just wish I could enjoy it like others seem to.


  1. Okay, let's see if Blogger cooperates this time! I understand what you're talking about w/ this one. I think we've all felt a need to fill awkward silences at some point. Some are more jittery about it than others. I, personally, don't feel the need to jabber and fill every moment with meaningless conversation. What I DO find, however, is that those silent moments are much more comfortable with family/friends I've been around for years. The need for nervous chatter just simply isn't necessary. It seems to manifest more with relatively new, or perhaps more surface relationships. I know I find it exhausting to be around people who are so nervous that they do feel the need to talk incessantly.

    First dates are a nightmare for this concept - both with the awkward silences and the incessant yammering. Both can be tedious. Again, I think it tends to be more of an issue when you're not as well acquainted with that other person. I'm sure we all have a different yardstick of measurement for this. I'm more comfortable with silence. :)

    - Dawn

  2. I think you're totally right, Dawn. And I think it does reflect how comfortable you are with the person.

    Though I think some of it is definitely internal as well.

    If you ever make it to Vancouver, I hope I don't talk your ear off. :)

  3. Nah, that won't happen - we'll both be too busy jabbering like crazy to make up for the past years of only being able to talk via blogging and FB! I imagine people around us will be looking for socks to shove in our mouths, just to get a respite. ;-)

    - Dawnie

  4. Now *that's* a nice image. LOL


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