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Considering the nature of silence

Much of communication focuses on expressive aspects related to verbal and non-verbal communication. However, at some times, “silence” also plays an important role. This reading summary helps you to consider what these silent zones might mean.

As an application of a recommended article (please download) by Chronemics and Silence studies pioneer, Tom Bruneau, we urge you to involve yourself in the following process.

We would like you to participate in a communication competition. Sorry, “NO TALKING ALLOWED! ”

For some, you might think “Hurrah! Silence!…. [long quiet pause, and a smile!]” For others, this is unthinkable! “How can I communicate WITHOUT talking?

But stop to think about this a minute. All of us have certain quiet times each day. When and why? What do those “pauses” mean? How do we use or take advantage of silence in communication? When is it good, or when is it not good? When is it necessary, and why?

Some of us may not “say words” but our minds are still talking. Do you ever have periods when you let your mind rest and hold back mental conversations? How? Why?

Rethink your daily “communication” patterns and how evident “silence” is in them. And if there are few silent moments daily, consider what places, events, or rituals require silence and why? What does silence mean in each of these?

Please list as many occasions as possible when you use “silence” effectively in communication. Reflect on what the occasions are, how long the “silence” lasts, and what impacts it has.

As you think about this important dimension of communication, you might read others comments and respond to them. How about voting with “Like” for the best ones in your opinion? You might also want to explain why you think it is the best.

Further resources:

We recommend Tom Bruneau’s “Silence, Silences, and Silencing” entry in the Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication Competence (Janet Bennett, Ed.) (2015). Bruneau was a pioneer in this area and devoted his life to understanding variations of silence and other chronemic factors, especially in non-Western, traditional cultures.

You might also want to look at the web-page devoted to studies on this topic, especially the page devoted to the late Tom Bruneau’s works. Scroll half way down for his more accessible article: Understanding Communicative Silence: East and West

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This article is from the free online course:

Intercultural Communication

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)

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