My absolute favourite time of year for cycling and running is June and July. And if I could pick my ideal time of day it would be about 5:00am. For the non-Albertans among my readers, the sun rises early here at this time of year and by five in the morning we are usually in full light. Now that Jim and I live the urban life, I hesitate to venture out alone quite so early, but when we were on the acreage, on almost any June or July morning I could be found running down a quiet country road by our home in the golden morning light. These days, my runs have more often turned into rides and my timing has been delayed by an hour or so but the beauty of the morning remains.
Even when I was teaching, and even when the exhaustion of the year felt like it could win, I couldn’t resist the lure of my early morning ventures out onto our quiet road on June mornings. One rare look at a new born fawn, a glimpse of a family of ducklings or the sound of a mama elk calling to her tiny spotted calf, would make an entire month of wake-ups worth it.
People wondered why I was so insistent that these special runs could only take place in the early morning. Surely a late afternoon, or an early evening run or bike in nature would offer the same treasures?
Part of this of course, was that we were beyond fortunate to have access to the kind of nature we found right at our doorstep. But it is more than this. There is something about what is revealed after a period of quiet or silence that causes the special connection I knew I could only find while much of the world slept.
So many people are afraid of silence. They want to fill it with words or with other distractions. It is as if, to them, the silence is awkward. It feels like an uncomfortable void that needs filling. I find it to be just the opposite. What I have always noticed in nature, turns out to also hold true for humans. Just as the animals are more likely to feel safe revealing themselves after the quiet of the night, so too are people often more likely to let us see some precious bits of themselves if we give them the quiet space to do so.
When I am coaching clients, my main job is to ask good questions. And then to wait. Usually people have fairly quick answers to questions. These are answers that they have thought of before. They are safe, completely acceptable answers. They are even truthful answers. But when I remember to not fill the silence, but to wait, and sometimes to wait some more, more important information is revealed. It is what is revealed after the silence that is often the real jewel.
A jewel is something precious; a gem. In museums, jewels are not left out in the open for visitors to handle. They are locked in cases or kept under glass. Very few people get to touch or feel them. The people who are privileged to be present when the glass case is unlocked, are so because they have proven they can be trusted to handle them without causing damage.
Each of us has jewels within ourselves. So often when we talk to one another we do not reveal our jewels. We stick to safe, comfortable, less valuable information that is neither new to us or the listener. This is not indicative of whether we have jewels to share or not. Every single person has many jewels; many parts of themselves that they tuck away until they feel someone else can be trusted to handle them without causing damage. One way we can prove our trustworthiness is to wait in the silence; showing we are truly interested in knowing more; showing that we will carefully handle the gems that are revealed to us.
This weekend and in the early days of next week, Rhonda and I will be completing a four-day bike trip in the mountains. I’m hoping that in the quiet of the mornings Mother Nature will reveal some of her treasures to us. As is our pattern, we will ride much of the way in comfortable silence. We will of course, fill some of the time with idle chit chat and with lighthearted conversation. We’ve been known to think we are hilarious. But some of the time, we will ask each other just the right question, and leave just the right amount of silence so that the other can reveal a jewel. And that will be my most treasured part of the trip.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What jewel is waiting in the silence?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how leave enough silence to make room for the jewels.