Shutting Up Can’t Be that Bad // Why We Should Embrace our Speechlessness


Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I don’t know how to shut up. It’s true; whether it be answering questions in class or talking at the bottom of Stu, I love to talk. Yet, I fear that our collective love of talking at Milton has forced us to push away the moments in which we are left speechless, leaving behind a culture that shuns learning, growth and progress.
Last week alone, I encountered two moments where I was left speechless. Walking to chemistry with friends after Mr. Herren’s talk, I struggled to find the words to explain the emotions I was feeling. I could sense that those around me were similarly grappling with the intensity of the past hour. Yet, instead of each taking our time to reflect and process, my friends and I forced ourselves to start an unrelated conversation. We ignored our speechlessness and moved on with our lives. A few days later, I again found myself speechless on the bus back from a squash match at St. George’s. This time, I was still thinking about the drama of a valentines-crazed week. As I stared out the window, I became very aware and even self-conscious of my unusual silence. When we got back to Milton, I felt guilty for not having maintained a steady conversation for the entirety of the bus ride. Unusual as it may seem to us, we all face moments when we are speechless. And I believe that it is through these moments that we should learn to more deeply connect with and build a better environment for those around us.
Whether it’s a question that has caught us off guard or a day too intense to process, we all have our reasons for being speechless. So first, let’s explore when and why we are left speechless before understanding how we must embrace our speechlessness for the good of ourselves and those around us.
In our school’s environment, a week can often feel like a roller coaster. On some days, good grades and funny jokes can make classes engaging and school uplifting, leaving one feeling unconquerable. On other days however, fights with friends, failure in the classroom, and unfortunate losses in sports can leave one at a loss for words. In just one week, Milton gives us so much—and sometimes too much—to think about. Thus, it is only natural that we require, at certain points in our Milton journeys, a moment to step back and shut up. We need moments to appreciate both our own silence and the silence around us. By understanding the moments in which we are speechless, we can dig into the complexities of our lives and grapple with the nuances with which we live.
From the little moments to the big ones, we must use our speechlessness to our benefit and frame being speechless in a totally novel light. First, let’s stop viewing speechlessness as a trap but rather an opportunity. Instead of remarking simply that “we were caught speechless,” let’s make an effort to understand why that was the case. It’s as simple as viewing our inability to answer a question in class as a stepping stone to understanding, rather than a hole we must not fall into in fear of failure. It’s as easy as using a loss on the court and the speechlessness that follows as a chance to reflect on your performance and understand what you could have done better. Speechless after a moving assembly? Use the silence to explore how you can change your mindset or actions for the betterment of others. We can all do a better job of embracing our speechlessness and encouraging others to do the same. After all, in a community that doesn’t shut up, and a culture that praises the talkers, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if we all took a moment to appreciate the silence.

Milton Paper