Pause For a Moment of Kindness

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"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“I would shoot for 100% honesty, then moderate it with silence” was a comment from a male reader on the post Looking for the Liars. 

The definition of honesty is fairness and straightforwardness of conduct. Instead of the lie I told the pastor when he asked, “Did you sign the visitor’s book?”, a fair and straightforward response would have been, “Not today. Maybe next time.”

I can do that.

However, “moderate it with silence” makes me cringe, even more than the lie.

When I give a straightforward response, an explanation seems necessary especially if an uncomfortable quiet comes over the conversation. After all,  my original statement created the silence, so obviously I’m responsible for filling it.

In my defense, and in the defense of every female friend I’ve heard make way too many excuses, psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith’s article in Psychology Today cites women talk at 250 words per minute. Men talk at 125. Goldsmith said Gary Smalley, author of “Making Love Last Forever,” reports women speaking 25,000 words in a day compared to a man only speaking 12,000.

“Moderate it with silence” … yeah, easy for him to say.

All the excuses, justification, reasoning and explanations are easy for us women to say.

But then, I looked up moderate. It means “lessen the intensity of, make less severe or harsh, and tone down.”

I can speak the truth gently and make the impact less intense when, once it’s said, I’m quiet. In fact, most of what I say would be less harsh if my word count was toned down.

“What you defend, you make true,” said a friend, and I think the truth of her statement shows itself in conversations. An acquaintance asked if I’d like to join her for lunch. I preferred to run errands because I wouldn’t have time again until the weekend. I listed several reasons why I couldn’t go. When she finally got in a word, she said, “It’s fine if you don’t want to go.”

No, that’s not what I said. Or was it? My run-on excuses would have sounded kinder if I had shortened it to, “I have a busy afternoon so I’ll have to pass.”

Holding tight to the period is the hard part.

I want to give at least one excuse so the uncomfortable silence seems gentler. Gentleness’ synonym is quietness. I’ll have to chew on that for a while … probably a good thing since I’m not supposed to talk with my mouth full.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I am willing to practice being kind by way of truth and quiet.

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