In life, just as in music, the space between notes is just as important as the notes themselves. For those among us who are not musically inclined, the “space between notes,” when applied to everyday life, is the silence that often says everything that needs to be said. On the day I am writing this blog, I participated in a particularly contentious telephone conference with several attorneys, who, although they are working together on the same side of a civil lawsuit, have an obvious dislike for one another. Because one of the attorneys (who is in a superior position to the others) retained my company to help in this case, the other attorneys seemed to take an instant dislike to me, due to my association with the attorney they dislike. During an awful few minutes in the phone call, one of the attorneys began to scream at me when I had the audacity to answer his repeated inquiries in the same way each time he asked the question, in an attempt to convince the other participants I did not know what I was talking about (even though I am the “expert” on the subject of the inquiry!). After answering this attorney’s question, again and again, his increased persistence and screaming finally led me to wait until he ended his lengthy diatribe and, when he was finished, I said nothing, absolutely nothing. The silence (that is, the space between notes), as the expression goes, was deafening. Finally, when the silence became unbearable for everyone except me, the attorney who had retained me said, “Dr. Pigott, is there anything you wanted to say in response to this repeated question, even though you have given us your opinion each and every time it was asked?” My answer, after another pause, was “NO!” In an uncomfortable, no win situation such as the one I describe, it is often more effective to say nothing at all than to continue saying something someone does not want to hear. As a bass guitar player, the space between notes is a powerful way to set the tone and keep the beat; in life, that space between notes is just as powerful.
It is interesting that, in our noisy world, silence, Melissa’s space between notes, is sometimes uncomfortable. But there are times when silence allows someone else to vent, or when silence provides an opportunity to listen. I sometimes find it difficult to stay quiet when I am asking questions of a prospective client who is trying to find the right way to describe the case details, but letting it flow from them usually results in a more detailed story. Similarly, people sometimes need time to consider a response, and some silence helps in this regard. Silence may also carry a message when, for example, someone is unable to come up with an answer to a question; a situation I have noted in some job interviews. The point of the concept of “the space between notes” is that the “dead air” carries a message too. Listening for it, or to it, may be telling. In a positive vein, it can lead to beautiful sounds, words, ideas, or stories, to follow. In a negative vein, it may be an indication of ignorance or dishonesty. And, as Melissa described, there are times when silence is a technique to use to convey a message and break a cycle. I’ve recently experienced 2 situations where the discussions were negative and I just didn’t want to bother with the confrontation. By being silent, I was able to allow the topic to change to one more deserving of conversation. Appreciate silence and use it to your advantage.