The joy of companionable silence

two people sitting on a bench looking away from the camera

There are so many times that I’ve heard people remark how sad it is when they see people out to dinner who sit and eat in silence. They often say something like “I feel sorry for those people as they obviously have nothing to say to each other”. There’s a big judgement right there! It also leaves me wondering how engaged these people really are with each other that they’re noticing and discussing or remembering the ‘silent’ couple.

Far from sad, as an introvert I experience utter joy at being with another and not having to talk; that takes confidence and respectful intent. Let me explain what’s probably happening here. If they’re introverts, it’s highly unlikely that they have nothing to say to each other. It’s much more likely that what they might have to discuss is not as valuable in that moment as the quiet they’re enjoying. For me, quiet leaves me free to immerse myself in whatever I am doing, or being for that matter. It might be savouring the food I’m eating rather than auto-pilot eating. Or allowing myself to be swept up in music. Or being transported into my imagination when reading. Or walking hand in hand fully appreciating our glorious countryside.

My husband and I can often be found together in companionable silence, whether out at dinner or at home, for which I am truly grateful. After all, quiet is not just a way of being, it’s a source of power to introverts. I travel alone a lot with my work, and that too is a joy. I can engage if I feel like it and am resourced enough, or I can simply enjoy my own company. I can indulge in room service or pick a restaurant and enjoy atmosphere (although I’ll typically pick the early service). Interestingly, when I’m away and call home to my husband, he will frequently remark how much he misses me and then we’ll laugh about how once I’m home, he’ll ignore me. Although we laugh at our personal joke, we’re both clear that it’s not ignoring; it is respecting each other’s need for space.

So next time you see people like me and my husband being quiet together, don’t pity us or worry yourself for our happiness. We’re probably in a state of replenishing bliss. It’s a bit like being at a silent disco; we’re joyfully dancing to our own tune without inflicting it on others.

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