I heard this question over and over again growing up. If left unchecked, my fallen state takes over and I’ll get passive in group settings. That is not uncommon for many, but I’ve been giving it some thought and . . . well I think I’m on to something. Often, the number of people in a group might determine the extent to which we fade into the background. I say “might” because while I may have made blanket statements such as “I feel comfortable speaking up in a group of 10 or less”, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the size of the group that matters, but the extent to which I feel a part of that group. Does that resonate with anyone else?
I’ve identified two reasons I might go silent in group discussions, and this applies if I’m in a small group of close friends or a large group of total strangers.
1. I’m processing. This is my favorite one, because it means that at some point, I will have something awesome to share. Unfortunately, the danger is processing so much that I never actually do share my observations or thoughts on a topic, or by the time I’m ready, the conversation has moved on.
2. I’ve disengaged. This one is based on insecurity and feelings of irrelevance (sometimes more conscious than unconscious). It happens when I don’t feel like I belong with those around me, that I can’t relate, don’t fit in, etc. This is where the Enemy can get its biggest foothold. The key to overcoming this is by acknowledging the truth that everyone has something of value to add, whether it’s an insight, experience, even a well-crafted question can richen the conversation and relationship you’re building.
So in the moment, it’s important I recognize where my silence is coming from. Thankfully, I have some wonderful friends who will help draw me out if needed. The interesting thing is that no matter what the reason is for stepping back (sometimes literally), what needs to be done next is the same. I need to re-enter the conversation, even if only to say “Hey – I have an idea here, let me think about it and circle back with you”.
Your thoughts and feelings are important. Don’t let the world ever make you feel they aren’t. God has given each of us a voice, in one form or another, and it’s important we use it to build up those around us. Staying silent in whatever form that takes, not only inhibits your personal growth, but robs others of the opportunity to learn from your wisdom and experience. Speak life into someone today.