Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Positive Silence

Two of my favorite new words.

Dr. John Lund defines true love as "any thought, word, or deed that is supportive of the 'loved one' becoming his or her healthiest and best self."

However, he goes on to say to that, "Professed love absent of loving behaviors will never convince anyone he or she is loved."

He continues, "Toxic people in the process of reforming have a difficult time loving those who are less than perfect. Without tolerating the intolerable, without assuming that loving them is approving of everything they stand for, what about loving them because you are a good person, not because they are perfect? Do you have to focus on the flaw? Do you really feel that your job is to be constantly correcting others? Why do you persist in seeing only what loved ones are not, rather than seeing the good that is in them?"

The trick then, is to let others feel my acceptance, affection, and appreciation as an end in itself, because I am a good person. The goal is to empower love.

One of the ways to do that is to make sure that the positive far outweighs the negative in our expressions to those whom we love. Many times in our relationships, people cannot hear or feel our love through the dark and confusing cloud of negativism.

Another is to learn to give a compliment to others with a period and a smile at the end, and not a 'but'. I will forever have seared into my memory a time when with great excitement I waited for my (first) husband to come home from work so I could show him how hard I'd worked in deep cleaning the kitchen. As he looked around at my efforts, he replied, "The kitchen looks great, but you forgot the top of the refrigerator." He wasn't trying to be mean to me. I am short, he is tall. I had neglected to see the top of the fridge. He probably thought he was being helpful. Yes, I am well acquainted with trying to be helpful with my compliments. Doesn't work. What I remember, all these years later, was that my efforts were flawed and incomplete.

And then there is Positive Silence. What a novel idea! (You mean I don't always have to say something?)

Stopping toxic or negative behaviors begins with recognizing them, and then learning to replace them with something positive. Remember the advice Thumper's mother gave to him? "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

So, rather than being judgmental, be silent.

Rather than mocking, scorning, or belittling, be silent.

Instead of playing "Devil's Advocate" or defending the opposite, be silent.

Instead of contradicting or correcting others, be silent.

Rather than interrupting conversations or stories, be silent.

Instead of a message of nonacceptance, be silent.

Rather than complain, be silent.

Rather than a reference to a past failure, be silent.

Instead of pointing out the 'unfairness' of life, be silent.

Instead of sarcasm, be silent.

Positive silence is learning to control the impulse to comment verbally or to display a negative countenance. It means not just not saying something negative, but also having neutral or positive facial expression and body language.

It's hard.

But it works. And it's amazing when you first start implementing positive silence and people notice. They look to you with a drum roll in their eyes waiting for you to make your witty, negative, sarcastic, complaining comment. And when it doesn't come, there is a very pleasant, though unexpected void. And then, when things pick up again, there is this tremendous feeling of not just positivity, but triumph inside!

And that just made others feel a teensy bit safer around you.

And you know what people can feel when they feel safe?

Loved.

5 comments:

Annette Lyon said...

Scary how well this works--and not just with avoiding negative comments. A member of my extended family hated my guts for years, largely because I was more educated and intimidated her.

We had a family reunion where I literally got laryngitis and lost my voice for 3 days. I couldn't talk at all.

By the end of the reunion, she was acting really, really nice to me--for the first time EVER. I learned then to SHUT UP around her. Let her talk. Maybe ask her questions, ask her opinion on things, but otherwise, just keep quiet.

Luisa Perkins said...

Very cool.

Kimberly said...

Oh this is just brilliant! I want to hand copies of this out to everyone I know (but won't, as they might take it the wrong way...).

YogaNana said...

This is a beautiful post. You are very definitely on the right path.

This particular quote is heading right now for my sig file: "Professed love absent of loving behaviors will never convince anyone he or she is loved."

Jenn -- said...

Jenna,
I tried it. You are right. It works, even with porcupines. My tongue is bleeding from biting it, but I am remaining silent when I need to be (no sarcasm or witty responses) and his communications with me have continued to improve and are actually civil.

Thanks for your post.