I’ve been working on being a better listener, so I was inspired by Ammon’s response when King Lamoni failed to answer a question. Here’s the story:
King Lamoni was overwhelmed when he learned that his new servant, Ammon, had singlehandedly driven away a large group of marauders who were trying to scatter his sheep. The other servants told the king that Ammon was superhuman, that no ordinary man could do what he had done. When Ammon reported back, the king was speechless. Ammon was about to leave, but one of the servants said, “The king desireth thee to stay” (Alma 18:13).
Ammon then asked, “What wilt thou that I should do for thee, O king?” According to the text, “the king answered him not for the space of an hour.” At the end of the hour, Ammon asked essentially the same question but again was met with silence. Finally, after varying the question and demonstrating some insight into the king’s perspective, he was able to initiate a conversation which resulted in King Lamoni’s conversion (Alma 18:14-21).
Today, I’m thinking about the role of silence in a conversation. In most of my meetings at work, every second is filled with talk. It’s sometimes hard to get a word in edgewise. But as I reflected on Ammon’s experience, I realized that silence is not necessarily the enemy of communication. Silence can be a powerful investment in a relationship. When the other person is unwilling or unable to speak, staying quietly engaged can demonstrate a commitment which words would be unable to match.
When Job’s three friends heard about the tragedies he had suffered, they traveled to his home “to mourn with him and to comfort him.” When they arrived, “They sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word unto him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13).
An article in the Ensign magazine provided the following sound advice:
Many people need time to gather their thoughts before speaking. Give them time to think both before and after they say something. Just because they are finished speaking doesn’t mean they have said everything they need to. Don’t be afraid of silence“Five Things Good Listeners Do,” Ensign, June 2018
Today, I will be more receptive to silence. I will give other people time to collect their thoughts, both before and after they speak. I will be less prone to rush in and fill the void. I will remember that silence can be an important component of effective communication.