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The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Silence


In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. --Isaiah 15
And, as if satisfied, he was silent. --Dante Alighieri (Purgatorio, Canto XXIV)

Not heard1. Nonverbally, the condition or quality of being difficult or impossible to hear, as in walking stealthily, swallowing a cry, curtailing bodily noises, and refraining from speech2. Synonyms include secretive (see DECEPTION CUE), reserved (see SUBMISSION), and tightlipped (which, in English, implies a conscious decision to withhold information).

Usage: Animals from reptiles to human beings have devised ingenious means to be silent in order to avoid detection.

Media IDead air: "An unintended interruption in a broadcast during which there is no sound" (Soukhanov 1992:478).

Media II. "Silence Speaks Volumes"--Title of August 27, 2001 editorial in USA Today (14A) criticizing Rep. Gary Condit's tight-lipped refusal to discuss his relationship with Washington, D.C. intern, Chandra Levy, in connection with her mysterious disappearance. "Asked why Condit shouldn't step down from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee because of the risk of blackmail, [his attorney] Abbe Lowel argued that Condit has 'shown his ability to hold information'."

Pregnant pause. While giving a brief report at a conference table, important speaking points may be dramatized by inserting a brief pause immediately after their delivery. In a lengthier report, pauses may be used to separate main sections of the presentation; listeners feel refreshed by silence and pay renewed attention to vocalizations delivered after a pause (see ORIENTING REFLEX).

RESEARCH REPORT: "Silences also function to mark episode and position boundaries [in conversations, e.g., when closing a topic]" (Burgoon et al. 1989:409).

See also INVISIBILITY.