When I embarked on a six month sabbatical some years ago, I emailed my private address book with a reminder to use my personal rather than corporate details as a primary means of contact.
A ‘friend’ long out of touch promptly replied, inviting himself to my French home, and even suggesting what time worked best around his other commitments. I was dumbfounded as to how to respond. This was someone whom I’d quite frankly forgotten was still part of my contact database, but saying so outright seemed rather harsh, though honest.
A close friend consulted for advice offered a simple
Just don’t reply.
I hadn’t occurred to me that not answering was a viable option. I wanted to neither accept the self-issued invitation, nor renege with some half-hearted excuse. So following my friend’s suggestion, I did nothing.
I suppose this method of non-communication works in the same way that not making a decision is de facto making a decision to remain with the status quo. Admittedly, it felt odd not to react, but it produced the desired result.
What got me thinking is that recently, this route of no reply seems to be an increasingly popular option, and I am not quite sure what to make of it. Email invitations remain unanswered, lingering in people’s inboxes unresolved or worse, deleted without remorse. Text messages are ignored in a similar fashion.
Not that I am the innocent party in all this. My reply time is notoriously bad, and calls quite often go to voicemail because answering whilst juggling girl, dog and dinner doesn’t add much to the conversation.
But in a world of never-ending distraction and stimulation, are we becoming blasé towards a meaningful personal exchange? Dominated by social media, have we become more informed about where near strangers are holidaying, or what they’re having for dinner, than we are about what’s happening with our closest friends?
Rather like the saying that speech is silver but silence is golden, is speech becoming tarnished in favour of ominous anonymity?
Personally, I’m sitting on the fence on this whole thing. I mean, would I rather be served a lukewarm excuse for not participating in something I am organising, or take the radio silence for a polite no?
I guess I myself have gotten a lot more selective as to what goes in my social calendar. In my ‘working’ days I basically said yes almost by default, unless a previous commitment prevented it. These days I am prone to question whether what I want to do is worth the effort of organizing the internal or external childcare required. I ask myself whether it’s an activity I would truly enjoy rather than my RSVP being prompted by a vacancy in the diary.
As a general rule, evening activities are easier as long as Rob is at home for bedtime. This doesn’t rule out a girly afternoon tea or the like, but when it comes to daytime engagements, or those that require a start earlier than 7pm, I will strongly favour attending my writing group over say a matinee movie.
Anyway, I think a lot of times, we simply don’t answer invitations to events we have no intention of attending because there’s just so much information bombarding us electronically that things simply get filtered out without any bad intentions. Even so, I’m rather perturbed by the trend, even as I perpetuate it.
So is silence really golden?
I can at least vouch that in toddler terms, unless they’re sound asleep, it is anything but.
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