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In our current media landscape, with its abundance of information, constant chatter and noise, building in silence has become essential. Generative AI will thousandfold this condition as it issues forth content in all forms – video, images, audio, words-words-words – more than we could ever hope to read across multiple lifetimes. The true art of communication is reductive. Mastery of the tool of silence puts us in another league of Storytellers; the abuela, the shaman.

All the things we cannot see

Everything we see on Earth, everything we have ever observed with all of our instruments – the stars, the planets, the galaxies, the atoms and electrons holding it together, particles of light, sound waves, our kitchen table, our clothing… the family cat. Our children.

All of it adds up to less than 5% of the total mass of the universe[i]. The rest of it is this mysterious material we refer to as “Dark Matter”, 27% and Dark Energy, 68%.

We understand almost nothing of the nature of these dark forces that make up the overwhelming majority of everything we see and understand.

We know that it is non-baryonic, meaning not composed of protons, neutrons, or electrons, and we know it does not emit any trace of its existence that can be measured[ii].

We know how powerful it is because of its effect on the objects around it. It’s responsible for Gravity. Cohesion. Attraction. Holding together stars, galaxies and the chair we trust our weight to.

All the things we cannot escape

Our daily, Human lives are a cacophony of chatter, texts, incoming messages, social media pings, videos, calls and conversation. We receive 46 push notifications per day from our apps[iii]. We check our phones 144 times per day[iv]. 89% of us check them within 10 minutes of waking up.

Amidst this barrage of constant input, our quick-thinking survival brains are able to process flat information in a nanosecond. Where to line up for hot dogs. Here’s the best way to shampoo a cat.

But to unlock the larger machinery of the mind – our abstract and emotional core – and allow our much more powerful engines – our emotions, our memory, our values, our purpose – to connect with the information it hears, ponder it deeply, there must be negative space.

Tips from the Ancient Masters

It’s 42.000 BC.

A Storyteller gathers her tribe in the warmth and safety of a cave. Firelight flickers, there is nothing more to be done for today. Berries have been gathered; meals eaten. Now is the time for the tribe to perpetuate its culture. How to find the way home with the stars. Which berries to eat and which to avoid. Where rain comes from. The value of honesty. Loyalty. Who we are, and what our place is in this world. The things that connect us long after each and every one in that cave is gone.

Unafraid of silence, the dark power of the vacuum, the Storyteller starts by saying nothing at all. Children wait. When she speaks, barely above a whisper, her words fall like rain on the desert.

The 80-year-old abuela can tell a story to your kids that has them hanging on her every word. Even as she closes her eyes, leans back and cleans her glasses. Moments tick by with nothing being said. The children wait. This is dark energy at work, pushing and pulling the physical world in ways we cannot understand.

The Power of Silence

Silence, the dark sister of Speech, is a mysteriously powerful tool in communications. It makes us uncomfortable, mostly because we are never exposed to it in the course of our daily lives. But silence allows for emphasis and impact. It creates anticipation, allows us to reflect, process information, connect ideas and form meaning out of what has been said.

Silence is an elegant, shadow saber we never use. Difficult to wield as it spreads discomfort in the speaker, the writer, the PowerPoint slide-maker who is used to filling a a void with noise, words and pictures.

Skillful use of silence takes practice. It is uncomfortable at first. Standing before a room of 200 executives, saying nothing. The audience might shift in their chairs and exchange nervous laughter. They might look around the room as you pause for what feels like an eternity. A white screen with one idea. Letting it breathe. Sink in, take hold, allowing the audience to form connections.

What does this mean for me? How does it impact what I do and what I want?

In our current media landscape, where information is abundant and constant and chatter is deadening, building silence into our lives has become essential. The continuous exposure to media, notifications, and distractions can lead to information overload and mental fatigue.

Generative AI will thousandfold this noise, as it issues forth content in all forms – video, images, audio, and words-words-words. More than we could ever hope to read.

Silence gives us space to heal. To focus and to feel. The true art of communication is reductive. Like the laws of supply and demand, a limited number of words raises the value of each.

Mastery of the tool of silence puts us in another league of Storytellers; the abuela, the shaman.

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Search for “Working Humans” everywhere you like to listen to podcasts. A few times a month, Fiona will dive into the nitty-gritty of employee engagement, AI integrtion, company culture and best practices with communication. Subscribe so you never miss an episode. Rate, review and share.

About Fiona Passantino

Fiona is an AI Integration Specialist, coming at it from the Human approach; via Culture, Engagement and Communications. She is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator and trainer.

Fiona helps leaders and teams engage, inspire and connect; empowered through our new technologies, to bring our best selves to work. She is a speaker, facilitator, trainer, executive coach, podcaster blogger, YouTuber and the author of the Comic Books for Executives series. Her next book, “AI-Powered”, is coming soon.

[i] Nasa (2021) “Dark Energy, Dark Matter”. Accessed June 4, 2023.  https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy#:~:text=It%20turns%20out%20that%20roughly,than%205%25%20of%20the%20universe

[ii] CERN (2022) “Dark matter Invisible dark matter makes up most of the universe – but we can only detect it from its gravitational effects” Accessed June 4, 2023.  https://home.cern/science/physics/dark-matter#:~:text=Unlike%20normal%20matter%2C%20dark%20matter,to%20have%20on%20visible%20matter.

[iii] Dogtiev (2023) Push Notifications Statistics 2023. Accessed June 4, 2023.  https://www.businessofapps.com/marketplace/push-notifications/research/push-notifications-statistics/

[iv] Dreibelbis (2023) “Americans Check Their Phones an Alarming Number of Times Per Day”. PC Magazine. Accessed June 4, 2023.  https://www.pcmag.com/news/americans-check-their-phones-an-alarming-number-of-times-per-day