Episode 53 : Silence – Nothing Helps Your Story

by Ian · 2 comments

in Conversation, Podcast, Sharing Stories

What is a vase? The container or the space within?

Silence is like empty space, it doesn’t seem to be anything. But in actual fact, without the silence, the void, or the margins, the space around things is needed to make sense of the thing.

Imagine for a moment walking up to your home, putting the key in the lock and opening the door only to find another door. Then unlocking that to find another, and another all the way. Imagine if the outside of your house looked fine but was a solid block of “house”, without any space inside it. Would you even call this a house? No!

Space and void

The space sometimes says more

A house is the external shape, the internal walls and fittings – but also the void between each of these items. It’s in the space that you actually live your life and just as important as the box that holds that space.

Silence is like the space within you house, or inside the vase, or the white space on a written page. Silence is what parentheses the spoken words and silence can do two things.

  • Create a void
  • Parentheses emphasise before and after content.

The Void

Silence is where you consider and ponder your thoughts and reflect for a time before starting some new part of your Life Story. This isn’t a time to be rushed but a time where a process is happening and in time something will come of the void.

If you’re telling your own story, just let it be. In a moment something will come to mind and you’ll be on your way again or if you’re recording someone else give them the space to allow whatever, to develop for them. By creating this void sometimes amazing things happen.

Other times a conversation will come to a natural end where there is no more to be said. This is where silence signals that it’s the time for you to reach for your list of prompting topics  and choose a new line of conversation.

The Parenthesis Pause

There are times where something is said, maybe long convoluted stories going into detail and building to a conclusion, then it ends and there is silence. There is often no need to hurry to the next points but simply take time to let the echos of the story ring into the silence as you contemplate what was said and the significance of it within the whole Life Story.

Or there will be silence first to set the scene, creating the tension for what is about to come. Maybe looking at photos, some tears welling up in your eyes or just a moment of contemplation that builds until the story starts. Allowing the tension to build will create what is needed to bring about the significance of the story and to interrupt it too early, will remove the power from the moment.

Much more detail of all the different pauses was covered in Episode 44 where we talk about the power and strategies of different pauses.

Silence in Interview

Your roll in recording a conversation with someone is to simply provoke responses, through comments and questions, then to remain silent but never inactive! The audio recording needs to be their story, as spoken by them, clearly understood but your roll is to help them continue with the flow of the topic, using all the silent, non verbals cues at your disposal.

Silence in cnversation

Silence creates space for thoughts …via bupowski on flickr

  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions – smile, smirk, frown, quizzical
  • Body language – lean forward, open position, hand movements
  • Nodding
  • Prompting – to items around you

All of these techniques will still fully engage with them while you remain silent for the audio recording and not get in their way of telling the story.

To the listener you’ll be silent but actually still fully engaged. If asked they would say you were a great conversationalist and wouldn’t realise that you spoke very little.

Silence is the space for emotions

Often on reflection of emotional aspects of your life there will be times where all of a sudden, emotions well up. This is the time to pause and consider. Sit and allow the silence to just “be”, while the words develop out of the void.

Sometimes there are no words to say and it’s the silent pause, that says more than any of the words around it.

It’s okay, it’s only quiet

Like the pregnant pause or awkward silence, quiet is not something to be concerned about. If there is a moment of self reflection, just leave it be and allow the moment to pass. Often out of these quiet times things will develop and some people need to be confronted with a void before they will say something. Let them sit awarkwardly with it until they open up. Interrupting the silence will only give them an out of dealing with the subject.

The quiet void of silence is the place that shows what’s around it and allows other things to come into existance. Allow it to happen and use it as a tool to help explain your Life Story.


It’s worth remembering:

  • Remain silent as they talk but stay engaged
  • Allow silence to provoke a response
  • Silence can speak louder than words
  • Silence is where emotions grow

When have you seen silence work it’s magic to help someone express themselves? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

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Good to meet you on Google+ Hang Out Vincent.

Keep me in the loop with what your Mum may do. I’d be interested in what a professional could do with some of these ideas…


I just wanted to say I enjoyed the podcast. This was the first episode I have listened to and I liked the pace and the way you presented it. The subtle reference to the chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching was not missed.

My Mum is very keen on writing memoirs and gives classes on it. She is also a radio presenter and so has a flair for audio. I think she’ll enjoy following your blog too.

Thanks again.

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