Words                                 -                     Silence
Solid                                  -                      Liquid
Ordered                             -                      Random
Known                               -                      Unknown
Closed                                -                      Open
Control                               -                      Chaos

Nonverbal communication among Navajo Indians

* Nonverbal communication styles have different connotations within each tribe.

* Navajo Indians, for example, may be comfortable with long periods of silence, and may not share inner thoughts and feelings with anyone outside their clan.

* Interest in what an individual says is shown through attentive listening skills.

* To establish a positive social relationship, the rule of silence is considered a serious matter that calls for caution, careful judgment, and plenty of time (Chisolm, 1983, as cited in Purnell and Paulanka, 1998).

* A person may be considered immature if answers are given quickly, or if he/she interrupts another who is forming a response.

* It is important to allow time for elderly Navajo to respond to questions. Not allowing adequate time for information processing may result in an inaccurate response, or no response (Wilson, 1987, as cited in Purnell and Paulanka, 1998)

* Navajo Indian family members may show support to family members during doctor appointments not through talking, but by simply being present. For Navajo Indians, silence is being supportive.

Cultural Competency - Multicultural Health Generalizations By Culture
Lifted from here.

Trappist monks will generally only speak when necessary, and idle talk is strongly discouraged. As described by St. Benedict, speech disturbs a disciple's duty for quietude and receptivity, and may tempt one to exercise one's own will instead of the will of God.

Speech which leads to unkind amusement or laughter is seen as evil and is banned.

In years past, a Trappist Sign Language, distinct from other forms of monastic sign language, was developed to dissuade speaking. Meals are usually taken in contemplative silence, as members of the order are supposed to listen to a reading.


Our actual conversations are now modeled on telephone talk. No pauses, because if there is a moment of reflection, a moment of silence, you wonder if the other person is still there. Manic. Keep talking, like I'm doing now.

The culture expects one to be manic: hyperactive, spend and consume and waste, be very verbal, flow of ideas, don't stay too long with anything - the fear of being boring - and we lose the sense of sadness.

So the whole structure that you mentioned: aggressive, dominant, power, sadistic, we can also call manic. And that quality of the psyche is our ego development. It's so ego identified that we don't even see it as a syndrome! What we see as a syndrome is slowness, sadness, dryness, waiting. That we call depression, and we have a giant pharmaceutical industry to deal with it.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.13

Silence is a major value in Native American culture, for silence is the token of acceptance, the symbol of peace and serenity, and the outward expression of harmony between the human and natural worlds.

[Diane Long Hoeveler]

Connection is also involved in that special sense of oneness that a Native person, or indeed any other sensitive individual, feels in the presence of nature.

The Native person may talk to trees or rocks. Yet, as I understand it, this talking is something very different from our own notion of a conversation - which is our way of bridging the gap between persons.

For the Native there may be no original separation, no distance to be bridged by interaction.

[F. David Peat]
'I've Got a Map in My Head'

Silent discourse prevails where people are deeply involved with one another. The collective awareness is developed to such an extent that it becomes a religious experience, and it can be neither uttered in sound nor communicated in words.

People committed to the silent way are highly integrated with the symbolic, for whole, unstated realms of culture act as extremely effective conveyors of information. Loyalties are concrete and people work together to settle their problems.

By screening the flow of information that comes into the community, and by developing a sensitivity to signs and symbols, the society expresses its traditions in life rather than in words or written records.  

Since this kind of religious experience tends not to be communicated verbally, other forms of expression are sought. Those forms are human conduct.

Verbal discourse, or preoccupation with words, whether spoken or written, prevails amongst those who emphasize literacy, rationality, and individuality [...] Instead of collective unity there is a multiplicity of thought, which leads to individualistic revelations and knowledge.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 388, 390

In Amish life, silence has many functions [...] Prayers before and after meals are periods of uninterrupted silence. Sundays at home are spent in relative silence - hammering, building, boisterous noises, and other workday sounds are prohibited. Relaxed conversation, resting, and walking are silences that blend with attitudes of worship.

Silence is a way of living and forgiving, a way of embracing the community with charity and the offender with affection. The member who confesses all before the church is forgiven, and the sin is never spoken of again.

Silence can aid in the restoration of good human relationships. By remaining silent when others would ask questions, one avoids the ugly subjects that would introduce disharmony.

In Amish life, silence is an active force, not a sign of introspection [...] The person who is possessed of silence (as distinguished form solitude) lives above verbal contradictions. The Amish are spared many of the arguments about words of Scripture or theology over which others haggle.

For them absolutes do not exist in words, whether in creeds or in position papers, for all such arguments are silenced by the character and example of Christ himself. 

The Amish person who is content with moderation does not need to order everything consciously. Much is ordered without conscious knowledge, and in silence there is room to work out ambiguities. The Amish may have quick and ready insights without having to explain them in categories used by intellectually sophisticated people.

Silence is a resource that is always at one's disposal. 

Many noises, including "needless chatter," are a displeasure to God, for once they are spoken, words can never be taken back, never stricken from the record. They will surface again on the day of judgement.

Amish sermons routinely stress scripture passages related to speech behaviour, especially from the Letter of James: "you must be slow to speak" (1:19) and "quietly accept the message planted in your hearts" (1:21). "The tongue ... represents ... the world with all its wickedness; it pollutes our whole being; it keeps the wheel of our existence red-hot, and its flames are fed by hell" (3:6). "It is intractable evil, charged with deadly venom" (3:8) (New English Bible).

Humility and quietness are the acceptable attitudes in the redemptive community. "Do not go babbling on like the heathen." [...] (Matt. 6:7) [...]  Attributes of cleverness, longwindedness, eloquence in words, and wordiness belong to the proud and wicked.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 388-90

Entertainment provides modern man with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television, videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction. 

Many primitive peoples, when they don’t have work to do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all, because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most modern people must be constantly occupied or entertained, otherwise they get “bored,” i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

[Ted Kaczynski]
Industrial Society and its Future, 147

In digital communication, nothing protrudes. Nothing deepens. It is not intensive but extensive, and this leads to an increase in communicative noise. Because we cannot remain silent, we must communicate.

Or: we cannot remain silent because we are subject to the compulsion of communication, the compulsion of production.

[…] What must be won back is contemplative rest. If our life is deprived of all its contemplative elements, we become suffocated by our own activity.

The fact that contemplative rest, silence, is essential to religion is suggested by the existence of the Sabbath […] during the Sabbath man rests 'his tongue from the everyday chit-chat and learns silence and listening'." The Sabbath demands silence; the mouth must be closed. Silent listening unites a people and creates a community without communication

Capital never rests. It is its nature that it must always work and continue moving. To the extent that they lose the capacity for contemplative rest, humans conform to capital. […] In this way, religion is diametrically opposed to capitalism.

Capitalism dislikes silence. Silence would be the degree zero of production and, in the post-industrial age, the degree zero of communication.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.37-8, 44, 46

The politeness-decorum system lays stress on not wasting words: this leads to an economy of speech that strikes outsiders as being conversation punctuated by silences.

To a Mescalero it is conversation punctuated by time for reflection, framing the next statement, being sure that the previous speaker is finished, and showing proper respect for language.

[Claire R. Farrer]
‘Singing for Life: The Mescalero Apache Girls’ Puberty Ceremony’, Betwixt and Between, p.260

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