OK, guys, has this one ever happened to you? You’re walking out of a great movie—I mean a really great movie—car chases through the city, tanker trucks blowing up as they run into trains, and lots of big explosions.
You just can’t figure out how they pulled all of that stuff off, and you’re talking about your favorite part of the movie (when the airplane swoops in and sky hooks the hero out of the road just before the tank runs over him—how sweet is that?). Then you notice your wife isn’t sharing your enthusiasm for the movie.
“What’s the matter?” you ask.
Then she tells you, “I didn’t like that movie. I didn’t want to go at all.”
“But I asked you,” you protest. “And you didn’t say anything.”
No, she didn’t. In fact, she didn’t say anything at all.
And you mistook her silence for agreement. Silence can mean agreement, but it can also mean a lot of other things as well.
Silence can mean anger. Silence can mean she didn’t hear you at all. Silence can mean impatience.
Silence can mean a lot of things. Yes, it can even mean agreement, but it doesn’t have to mean ANY of these things.
And that’s what makes silence so frustrating. To say the least, it’s inexact. For the person who’s being silent, they think their displeasure is obvious to the world and someone should ask about it. That would be a wrong assumption.
The one experiencing the silence always interprets what it means.
If they’re in a good mood, then they’ll interpret the silence as agreement or enjoyment. If they’re in a bad mood, they’ll see the silence as anger or frustration.
That’s why you have to be sure you’re getting the intention of the silence. How do you do that? You ask them. Ask questions such as, “Do you agree?” or “What are you thinking?” or “Is that OK with you?”
Now, if they don’t answer honestly, that’s on them; but it is up to you to make an honest attempt to understand the silence.
Remember, silence can mean a lot of things.
But it doesn’t always mean agreement.
You won’t know until you ask.