Why do most nice girls believe that silence is golden?

Karen R Koenig

One of the reasons we believe silence is golden is because that’s what we’re told from day one in our culture. Pretty much every society has its equivalent directive to help people keep their traps shut. It’s a necessary rule for people living in community, a great lesson, but only a partial one. Rarely do we hear the other half: to speak up when we need to. Because we’re told as children to pipe down and are “shushed” to death at home, school, library, and church or synagogue, we think that being silent is preferable to being vocal. Consider what culture teaches us: Don’t speak unless you have something important to say, keep your mouth shut unless spoken to, still waters run deep (as if being quiet means you’re a deep thinker), hold your tongue, speak softly and carry a big stick, watch your mouth, hush up, shut up, stay mum, and zip your lip. There are oodles of ways to silence us and make us think that there’s something wrong with speaking out or sharing what’s on our minds.

Now, of course, I wouldn’t want to live in a chaotic say- whatever’s- on-your-mind society any more than you would. All I’m saying is that there is far more of a cultural push for us to pipe down than for us to pipe up, and that message comes across loud and clear from our earliest days. We’re not programmed to enjoy squalling infants, boisterous children, or loud-mouthed adults, so of course we come to believe that silencing ourselves is a good thing for us and everyone else.

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