The proverb 'Silence is Golden' is very relevant in the current scenario. In the world of chaos and confusion with blaring horns, loud noise and ringing phones all around us, silence can play a key role. Silence also speaks a language which has to be interpreted and understood. In any conversations silence plays a key role which at times even communicates more than word would say. Silence is quite hard and mysterious to describe. On the one hand it is the quietness and total lack of audible sound or speech. On the other side silence can indicate emotions, such as awe, horror, anger or indifference. Placing the index finger in front of closed lips is most widely recognized gesture of silence. The gesture can be demand silence without raising once own voice. Silence can serve many functions in any conversation and how you manage it determines your aptness and sophistications. Managing silence in conversation is important part of emotional intelligence.
It has been observed that allowing silence in a conversation put pressure on the other person to speak and fill in the communication gap. Silent moment are awkward for most of us, except when we are with someone we are close to, like close friend or spouse. HR professional sometimes use extended silence in interviews with the intention that candidate will 'spill'- i.e. saying exactly the thing they didn't want to say. There is an unspoken pressure to keep conversation flowing and they tend to read hidden meaning.
The impact of silence in communication is different in different cultures. The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. In Japan, silence is an integral part of individual communications skill. In contrast, for American silence is an uncomfortable road block in a conversation. Americans communicate to exchange, to achieve something. Because of the nature of normal conversation in the US allowing an extended silence can be perceived as rudeness. It can also be meant that way. Refusing to reply to the other person is a way of ignoring them estimating silence as weapon to defeat unwanted.
When we experience anger, fear, or embarrassment our thinking gets impaired and for that moment we may be unable to speak or not be in a position to find words, or so scared that we become speechless. Some people 'flooded' with these emotions and are unable to respond. Our words block in these moments and can't pronounce a single worthy word which could express us perfectly.
Silence can indicate respect. A young person may be expected to approach an older person or person in authority and remained silent until recognized, acknowledged and spoken to. Many people among us are shy and reserved, we tend to think before we speak and silent become a part of conversation. Good listeners know how to do this, and it can be learned. Silence in speech can be the result of hesitation, self-correction, or the deliberate slowing of speech for the purpose of clarification or processing of ideas.
Excellent communicators can allow silence when it effective or called for; can avoid being pressured into speaking with silence is used as tool to manipulate the conversations. Cultivating the art of graceful silence is one of the characteristic of successful people. We should offer silence as gift or sign of respect; interpret the silence of other appropriately; understand how other cultures use silence thus mindfully regulate the use silence; and are comfortable with silence and understand it's many uses.