Sometimes Resilience Means Enough Words

When was the last time you chose silence over chatter?

Maybe an object of beauty rendered you beyond words, or a silly argument, or even just the nonstop press of life.   

A friend shared her own story of resilience and "enough words" during a car ride with her teenage son. From the sound of it, he was being a typical teenager, asking for a pricey getaway to see his favorite team when his parents had just purchased expensive tickets for him to see the team in their hometown. "He acted so ungratefully," my friend said, that I just told him, "I don't know how to respond to you at this moment so I'm just going to be quiet."

That took courage. And the kind of reasoned decision making that is attainable only when we allow ourselves to say, "enough talking." Sometimes we're so quick to react with words that without meaning to, we create full-blown arguments. I'm certainly guilty of this. 

Reasoned decision making is one of the four pillars of resilience I teach in my Resilience RX Framework.  Just the other day I was working with a group of medical residents at the University of Colorado Hospital. When I asked the group to talk about a time they'd either succeeded or failed at making a reasoned decision, one resident relayed an encounter with a homeless patient that has haunted him for years. "It was bitter cold outside and the man refused to leave the exam room even though we were ready to discharge him. I wish that I had listened to understand instead of just using my doctor privileges to have him escorted out."  The resident was literally shaking when he told the group this story. "I wish," he said, "that I respected the silence that this situation called for. The patient wasn't looking for trouble; he simply wanted a place to rest." 

Rumi once wrote a poem called "Enough Words" that inspired my talented artist mother Susan Sharp to create a painting by the same name. Here's an excerpt from the poem, and her painting is the one featured with this blog post. 

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe. 

When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove. 
Don't open your mouth for even a cooooooo.

With summer just days away, take time to appreciate moments of wordlessness. From such quiet periods come unexpected strength and resilience. 

Nancy Sharp



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