Does practicing silence, or specifically Compassionate Silence, with your partner actually help with relationship dynamics? Can you even practice silence within yourself, and how does that affect you in terms of self-care?
Join me and my guest Taylor Trusty, co-founder of Signal Insights, as we discuss the effects of compassionate silence in different areas: between a couple, between friends, within an individual, and even in business!
Dr. Chloe [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to The High Functioning Hotspot with me, Dr. Chloe Carmichael today's episode is with a repeat guest that we've had before, which is Taylor Trusty. Taylor is a very successful serial entrepreneur. He's created and sold multiple businesses, definitely in the million dollar plus space. Taylor's a really expert businessman, but he's also, I think a very high functioning person because he has a lot of emotional intelligence and he's really interested in people, relationships and meditation. So I thought he would be the perfect person to discuss my blog about Compassionate Silence.
Dr. Chloe [00:00:50] I'm not going to read the whole blog to you, but I will give you a little bit of an overview and there is a link in the notes if you wanted to read the whole blog for yourself, but basically the idea with compassionate silence is that we learn how to be in silence either quietly with ourselves or with another person and have it be intentional.
Dr. Chloe [00:01:15] So rather than, you know, we're just not talking because we feel all talked out and we have nothing to say, or we're not talking because there's tension or there's an argument. Sometimes it's helpful to actually just take a period of time and say, let's just actually be silent together.
Dr. Chloe [00:01:33] And that can take off a lot of the pressure sometimes to feel like you have to constantly be having a conversation. And it can give people a little bit more latitude to just see what it's like to be around the other person without feeling the big pressure to talk. Sometimes people also want to try intentional silence even when they're just by themselves.
Dr. Chloe [00:01:56] So they know that if they're not talking with somebody on the phone or in the middle of a zoom call or whatever, it's not because nobody happens to be calling right now. It's because they've put up a specific boundary around that time. As some quiet time for reflection, I personally got into silent retreats, doing yoga a lot more.
Dr. Chloe [00:02:20] I was a yoga teacher before I was a psychologist. I still do yoga now. And though not as much as I used to. And the silent retreats or silent meditation sometimes as part of retreats where, how I got into exploring silence. And of course, silence is also a big deal in therapy. Sometimes therapists want to analyze silences or understand and talk about silences.
Dr. Chloe [00:02:45] So without any further ado, I'm just going to go ahead now and get into my conversation about silence with Taylor Trusty. I hope that you enjoy it.
Dr. Chloe [00:03:01] Did you read the power of science? Good. What did you think?
Taylor Trusty [00:04:07] Well, I think it's interesting cause I spent five weeks with my girlfriend. We did a cross country trip.
Taylor Trusty [00:04:13] And that was the most time we've spent together like that, and this kind of came up, this idea, you know, we drove from here to, from New York to Los Angeles. And so it was driving, you know, the first day was 14 hours. The second day was 12 hours and it was a lot of driving and there's a lot of quiet time and I think it worked pretty well.
Taylor Trusty [00:04:49] It worked well. I think that your idea of having a game plan, like, “Hey, for the next hour, we're going to be quiet.” We kind of did in an unspoken way. So I also noticed there were unspoken rules. So if we played music, for instance, it was okay to talk. But if we were listening to a podcast, not okay to talk. So it became podcast in the car means no talking, music means share your thoughts.
Dr. Chloe [00:05:20] And was that your, like, did you agree with those unspoken rules or did you feel like you wanted them different.
Taylor Trusty [00:05:47] Did I agree with them? Yeah, I think I, yeah. It worked for me. I mean, here's the thing. I'm not gonna listen to a podcast, just half listened to it. If it's not good we're not gonna listen to it. So I think that that's the trick is that if we're listening to something, let's actually, listen, let's be intentional about listening to the podcast, or if I'm going to listen to you and then let's be intentional about listening to you and let's have a conversation, but let's not have a half podcast running. And this half conversation between you and I, you know, let's be intentional about what it is that we're doing and focus on that.
Dr. Chloe [00:06:02] Yeah, I think that's part of the reason why intentional or compassionate silence can be so helpful for people sometimes, because I think a lot of people, maybe, especially people that have like a people pleasing tendency or something, they feel this constant pressure to fill the space or make small talk or whatever.
Dr. Chloe [00:06:31] But then, like you said, if, if you're actually not even really doing it, because you specifically have something to say, then it can just become kind of distracting and exhausting. I don't think that a lot of people really have a way to just be quiet together. So the idea of doing this intentional or compassionate silence can solve that for some people.
Taylor Trusty [00:06:57] So can you expand on that? So are you saying that people don't enjoy the silence? Like how you and this scenario, you're saying, how do couples, when they're together that there's this always talking, is that, is that what you're saying? There's always noise.
Dr. Chloe [00:07:20] Well, there sometimes is and it's not that they don't enjoy the silence. I just think some people need to know that the silence is appropriate and that it's okay. Otherwise sometimes people feel a pressure to fill it or to chatter or, depending on their personal history, they might think that silence means that something's wrong or that we're angry or, why is that person so quiet?
Dr. Chloe [00:07:47] Or for some people it can almost even feel like an abandonment, like, “Oh, he's so quiet. I feel like he's checked out. We might as well, not even be in the same room.” And so just to define it together that like, this is actually an activity. That we're doing together. We like to be together. We like to spend time together.
Dr. Chloe [00:08:06] But we also want to just be able to do it quietly and silently, and it takes the pressure off. I actually and wrote the blog really specifically in response to some of the issues that people were facing because of quarantine. So I got into compassionate silence myself years ago, like 10 or 15 years ago, I was at a yoga retreat and I came upon this woman and she had the sign on that said In Loving Silence, she was wearing like a name tag basically, but it just simply said In Loving Silence. And I really liked the way that she put it because it made it very clear that her silence wasn't about rejecting anybody. It wasn't like anything, I don't know, weird or whatever, it was just her taking this moment of silence, but that she was still trying to convey a positivity towards the people around her.
Dr. Chloe [00:09:07] And I really liked that. And then subsequently I ended up going on some silent meditation, experiences and things. And I really liked it and it was just something I personally had in my toolbox. And then when the pandemic came up in a lot of people we're stuck together in a house for a long time with people. I felt like writing the blog to share about this because I think they just got this thing of like, feeling so talked out around each other, or even just sometimes annoyed like that, the other person is just talking and they just need space, they need to be alone, but they couldn't do it because of the quarantine pandemic. They couldn't just go alone and their partner was never leaving the house. And so I wanted to teach people about, about this tool.
Taylor Trusty [00:07:00] And so under normal circumstances and that scenario, the individual would just leave that they would say, “Okay, I got to go” and they would let go hang out with their friends or go for a walk, and that's the real problem is that, they don't, they no longer have that outlet. Is that what you're saying? So they're kind of forced to listen, they're forced to be in the room.
Dr. Chloe [00:10:16] Yeah. I mean, under normal circumstances, either the person themselves could go and solitude if they wanted that, or under normal circumstances, their partner would naturally be out of the house sometimes. And so they would have that opportunity for quiet time naturally. But even without a pandemic, and even without quarantine, I still think it's a nice tool for people to have. But yeah, I mean the pandemic situation and the quarantine really heightened, you know, my idea that people needed to know that this was an option.
Taylor Trusty [00:10:55] How did the silent retreats or the silent meditation retreats change your behavior? Like how did those impact you?
Dr. Chloe [00:11:10] Well, I think that they helped me to just disconnect from a lot of the day to day chatter that we go through. So having impulses to communicate or to talk to people sometimes is actually a distraction, you know, from what's going on or what's happening inside of us. Not always. I mean, I just want to make it clear, I'm not some kind of a proponent that more is better in terms of silence. I don't think people should be silent all the time or strive to be silent as much as they can. But I do think that, almost like when people fast from food, it sometimes deepens their, for that moment at least, kind of a little bit of an intensity about their own focus on their inner life.
Dr. Chloe [00:11:53] Just like even food can be a little bit of a distraction sometimes. And so when you just really go inside of yourself, I think it gets you a little bit more attuned to stuff that you might not have otherwise paid attention to because you get carried away with conversations.
Taylor Trusty [00:12:17] I've heard that by day two it's like incredibly difficult. You know, that long of silence really gets in your head or can get in someone's head.
Dr. Chloe [00:12:25] I didn't do it that long, so I never did that. I did sun up to sundown and that's all I did. Like that's the longest I've done.
Taylor Trusty [00:12:35] That's still really long. I guess you, you mentioned this in the article, where was this? If you're living alone that this kind of happens, that is chosen. So it can feel quite different to have a time when nobody's calling you. You know, it's like, Why I didn't choose to be quiet today, but nobody's calling me and I didn't call anyone and it didn't go outside. Therefore I had a quiet day and there's this distinction between no, no, no. Today's Saturday and today's my day. And I'm not going to communicate. I live alone and, some days, especially right now, so I was gone for five weeks. Yeah, I did. I was all over the West coast. I pick from friends, flew in from California. I mean, we were very social despite the quarantine and or what's going on.
Taylor Trusty [00:13:25] And then I came back here and, you know, I'm on Zooms 60% of my day. And I'm on phone calls and there's this, I was reading about this, that there's this concept of like, I'm social with you right now, but I'm also just sitting by myself in front of a computer. So there's this weird, in my head, there's this, I feel like I'm having this social connection, but maybe I'm not. Or maybe, that's why it causes me to feel exhausted afterwards. I dunno. It just popped into my head when I was reading about this idea of being intentional and being alone. I'm tied into this kind of zoom world where we feel almost Connected in some ways, but really aren't.
Dr. Chloe [00:14:10] There's a lot of varying degrees of connection. That's why also I advise people in the blog for thinking about doing some silent time to really define what that really means, you know, like the whole thing about, even if you can do verbal or nonverbal communication, all of those things affect people differently. And in the silent meditation retreats, they have rules about that as well. Some people consider it cheating if you like, kind of do like this, like you want to go for a walk together, just you and me go for a silent walk or, you know, some people feel like any type of attempt to communicate with other people is breaking that silence.
Dr. Chloe [00:14:53] And I don't personally have any view that one is correct, and one is not, but it is important. I think, just to think about it.
Taylor Trusty [00:14:57] So you don't think it's cheating to do that?
Dr. Chloe [00:15:01] You know, I don't, I think it depends on your goal, you know, like I personally don't think it has to be cheating because at least with nonverbal communication, you know, it's going to be pretty simple, it's not going to divert you too much from your own silent path, from whatever you were thinking inside necessarily. But I've also had other silent retreats where like zero communication of any kind was allowed and there was actually something really peaceful and deep about that as well. So to me, it's almost like getting different kinds of food. Like I don't think one food is better than the other. I just think they're different. So did you and your girlfriend discuss the idea of being quiet and silent in downtime? Or did it just happen naturally?
Taylor Trusty [00:16:05] Let me think. Well, I remember there was a specific instance where we were listening to music and I said, “Let's turn on a podcast”. And she said, “Okay, I guess you're done talking”. And so there was this line about, well, if I'm going to look for a podcast and there's no more talking. And I guess it was unspoken until that point, like, I didn't actually make that connection until she said it.
Taylor Trusty [00:16:33] So I suppose in that scenario we did, in that very specific scenario, but no, there actually wasn't, you know, at the beginning of the trip we didn't set out and say, here are kind of the rules. It just kind of fell out that way. It also, like I've been on road trips with this one friend in particular who's what you're talking about. Always fills the space and I can't do that. Actually, I was on a group road trip with this individual. This was five years ago and we had a conversation with him. We're like, “Hey, it's okay that we don't, we don't need to talk. This is a 12-hour drive. We can just hang out, listen to music.”
Taylor Trusty [00:17:18] He got quiet for maybe 30 minutes, but I don't know if it's part of his being. But I know that I could not do another trip like that. I know that I could not do that with him. So I really respected that, Michelle, my girlfriend and I had a similar vibe even without necessarily talking about it or necessarily drawing those boundaries.
Dr. Chloe [00:17:44] Yeah, that's an interesting thing. I mean, as a psychologist too, I don't know if you're aware of it, silences, there's like entire books about silence and what it means in a therapy session. And there's a lot of disagreement amongst therapists as well. It's kind of a big thing.
Taylor Trusty [00:18:05] What does it mean?
Dr. Chloe [00:18:08] Well, I mean, so I personally think that, it's going to depend on the client, right? But for example, some therapists would allow a client to come to the session, sit on the couch and say absolutely nothing for the whole entire therapy session. And then just be like, okay, our time is up. And the therapist is then just gonna sit there, analyzing what does it mean that this person would pay money, would have an appointment, would come in and would just sit there quietly. And they do that because the therapist feels, I mean, every therapist is going to be different, but in general, you know, the therapist feels that it's the client's responsibility to come in and use the time and talk about whatever they want to talk about. And that if they choose to say nothing that maybe the therapist would analyze, like the client's passivity or, if they felt like the client was passive aggressively trying to get the therapist to, I mean, again, this isn't me.
Dr. Chloe [00:19:17] I actually personally really take issue with that type of approach. And for me as a client, I would feel very frustrated. I would feel like the therapist didn't do their job of trying to draw me out or whatever. But there are many therapists that would just totally allow that to happen. And those same therapists even would actually be critical of somebody like me, because my approach would be to say, you know, “I noticed that you're really quiet, I'd like to follow up on the homework from last week, Let's see if we can get going with that.” You know, like it just, it wouldn't even happen in the first place, that somebody would be silent with me because I'm interacting in a two way manner, but there's a lot of therapists that would view what I'm doing is actually disrupting or erasing the ability to actually really see the client clearly, because I'm inserting myself into the mix and filling the space that I'm depriving the client and me both of understanding who they really are and what they're really bringing.
Taylor Trusty [00:20:26] I don't understand how somebody can. That's really interesting. How can you learn everything you were just saying? How would you be able to learn that about somebody through silence? How would I know they're being passive aggressive or how would I know those things?
Dr. Chloe [00:20:47] Yeah. So I think if somebody came to their very first therapy session and behave that way, I don't think most therapists would. You know, just go that way with it, but it's more like once they feel like they know the person, if the psychologist's already has kind of a working theory about the person that, that they can be very passive or, you know, that whatever it is, they reached a certain point where they won't, input anything and they'll only respond to things that the client like actually says. But, again personally, that's not my style, but there's volumes about it.
Taylor Trusty[00:21:20] I never knew that. Yeah. So I guess along those lines, there's different ways that I, or my girlfriend, or my friend I was talking about, or you, can all interpret silence that we hear it in different ways. And that's why this structure is so important saying, “Hey, it's not a bad thing. Where for the next hour, we're just going to sit in silence. I'm not upset. I'm not angry, nobody's angry. We're just going to be intentional about that”. And that's why this structure is so important?
Dr. Chloe [00:21:53] Yeah. I mean, in some ways, to make sure that nobody misunderstands it, that's one goal. But I think it can also become actually a share-it activity as well. So just when you watch a movie together with somebody you're sitting there silent together, but you're both also wrapping your mind together around the same narrative. You're focusing on that and watching it together in silence.And then you talk about the movie later. And if you decided to do that together and say, we're going to intentionally do even 10 minutes of silence or whatever. And then we're going to have a time after that, where we discuss, what was it like, how was it different? Is there stuff you wanted to say? And then later, we go through all these things where we might think that we wanted to tell somebody something and then like after even 20 minutes without having done it, where like, “Oh, but then I realized it connected to this other thing or whatever”. And so just to watch our own thought process mature or evolve or whatever, then to share it with somebody later can be really helpful. I mean, also for people that are used to constantly asking for reassurance from their partners, something like that, to just be in a place where they're just supposed to both be quiet together. And even just that you know that he's not going anywhere and he's doing this with me, but we're just being quiet together.
Dr. Chloe [00:23:16] It can be a way to deepen your connection with somebody to start focusing on body language, or like you start kind of seeing and observing how you're breathing, how the other person breathe. We have so many ways that we communicate with each other besides words, that we just don't necessarily realize until we stop using words sometimes.
Taylor Trusty [00:23:44] I do this. I like it. This is cool.
Dr. Chloe [00:23:50] Yeah. I mean, it's neat. Even If you do it for even 10 minutes or 10 hours, it can be good either way, I think, but also just for people to be able to give themselves. A little bit of a break, you know? But it can also be very what we call evocative. So if you go into this period of silence together with someone, it can be interesting to notice. What some of your default assumptions start to be. So if you start seeing like, yeah, it was so weird. Like I knew we were doing it as an activity together, but like an hour into it, I started it thinking to myself, “He's glad we're not talking because he hates to talk”. Or I started thinking to myself, all this other stuff, like just whatever we start noticing can come up about our dynamic with a person. It can be helpful to write it down and, you know, just talk about it later.
Dr. Chloe [00:24:47] But again, it personally came up for me because of the pandemic and people are like, “Oh my gosh, it's driving me nuts”. Like we just feel this constant pressure to communicate, or just make small talk or we've all been in the house forever together. And it's like, “Hi! Yep. Still here!” So it can just relieve some of that pressure, some of that burden, but then even without trying to solve a problem, if you do it with a different type of intention of saying, you know, let's just explore silence together, see what it feels like for you and for me and for us as a couple, and to talk about it later, can just at the very least be a little entertaining.
Taylor Trusty [00:25:32] Are you supposed to talk? Are you supposed to, can you read, so if you're both reading or are you not allowed to do an activity while I always just say like looking at each other the whole time?
Dr. Chloe [00:25:55] So reading and television and music, those things would probably not be happening if you were at an official silent meditation retreat. But I mean, the goal of this doing silence, for people listening to this podcast or reading my blogs, it's not even necessarily, to go into some deep meditative state. So I would say yes, like if the idea is just that you're spending time together and you're like, “Oh, I love it”. If we read books together and hang out, that's fine. But other couples might say, “Well books are okay, but I don't want music” or “Books are okay, but not TV”. Cause you know, it kinda changes things. But each person is going to be different.
Taylor Trusty [00:26:38] I love it. I mean, yeah, this is my own arsenal. Yeah.
Dr. Chloe [00:26:45] Well, I would be curious to know if you and Michelle decided to try it as well, even though you've just had some silence even just by default, but.
Taylor Trusty [00:26:50] Well, yeah, she actually stayed in LA, so she's still there. And so when she comes, she'll be back next week. And so when she comes back, it'll be interesting cause we were together so much for like this condensed period of time. And then we were gone for two to two and a half weeks, three weeks, whatever. So it'd be interesting to see what happens, what type of recalibration happens and the silence might be a good tool to kind of step back into it.
Dr. Chloe [00:27:21] Yeah. I mean, again, it's so interesting because a lot of people will take silence to mean either that there's anger or they feel like maybe like, it means that we're not engaged, that we don't have anything to say to each other or that the person is distracted. So I think it can be really helpful to just sketch it out in advance that this is actually an activity that we're doing together to explore together, later what this silence was like and knowing that there's like a, uh, an intention to do it together and a space to debrief and talk about it, I think definitely underlines that part of it. So anyway, I'm glad that you liked it. I'm glad you want to give it a shot and I'm glad you had a good trip to California
Taylor Trusty [00:28:10] It was wonderful. Everybody should travel the country, drive the country.
Dr. Chloe [00:28:15] That's kind of a meditation in itself. How has your startup going?
Taylor Trusty [00:28:18] Oh, it's going great. We're procurements is a lot of fun. It's not, we're deep in procurement with several of these businesses and Covid is having people don't want to sign contracts. So, um, But other than that, it's been, it's been good. There's still businesses out there doing well right now. The trick is finding them and then, so we've been solely making our way and this week has been particularly good. I keep looking at my inbox cause we're like waiting on this contract from a major company.
Dr. Chloe [00:28:50] Silence is a big one in business and negotiation too.
Taylor Trusty [00:26:00] Oh, please expand on that.
Dr. Chloe [00:29:00] Yeah. I mean, well, I was going to ask you to expand on it actually as well. I mean, since you're right in the thick of it, you're a very successful business person, Taylor. So I'm just curious, like, do you use silence yourself, like, in a negotiation or in business? Or do you mind sharing about that on the air?
Taylor Trusty [00:29:23] Yeah, I think part of it is. Well, let me back up. So I think there are several scenarios, right? So one is, if it's a particularly savvy person. So if the other person is a senior vice president of something and they've been in business a long time, there's a level of sophistication that they bring oftentimes. And I guess my point is, is that it works well in some situations and not as well in others, with a junior person, it works particularly well. You know, they feel like they must fill the gap, you know, fill the gap of silence. I'm in a lot of pricing discussions right now and one of the things I'm working on, and one of the things I've been using this week is to say is the anchor the price. So I'll say, “Look, whatever, everything I just showed you is 1500 to $2,500 a month. What do you think?”. And then I say nothing and then I let them fill it in. Like, let them say, well that's a lot, or it seems fair to me, or nothing. And so before I'm actually being very intentional about shutting up , like I just don't like, like I feel the gap.
Taylor Trusty [00:30:47] Like I put in my part, I said this and it usually has something on the screen kind of showing it to, to reinforce what I just said. And then it's like, okay, your turn waiting for you now. I think it's particularly powerful even with very savvy people, even if they know what's going on, um, it can work particularly well. Now the struggle is, is that if they just go completely silent, which is what's happened with two people right now, they're playing the trick on me, or they're just not responding to my phone calls and emails, and that's a whole different game.
Dr. Chloe [00:31:27] Yeah. So if someone's not responding to a call or an email, that's a, it's a different thing. I think then when we have silence come up, like during a two way, like live conversation. But yeah, it was being able to be silent in those conversations. When it is the right time, as you said, you've given the whole presentation, you've quoted price. You want to ask the person now, what do you think the ball is in their court? It can be so tempting. Like I said, especially for like high functioning people whose mind is moving quickly. You can think of lots of things, things to say. Um, you know, especially if you're in the people pleasing mode, you know, you want to win the customer, it can be so tempting to just fill the silence. I also actually have a fair amount of dating clients that talk about that kind of stuff too. Like if, if they're saying goodbye and they're like, I had a nice time. Yeah, me too, you know, and like, they're just kind of waiting. And so sometimes people even do things like silently count to 10 or whatever, just to force themselves to learn how to just not say anything for a moment and give that other person a chance slash a little slight pressure to step forward and fill in that space as they should to hold up their end of it.
Taylor Trusty [00:32:50] Huh? That's interesting. Uh, I think sales is a lot like dating and so a lot of the things that work in business, you know, work relative term, but, um, yeah, it makes a lot of sense.
Dr. Chloe [00:33:00] Yeah. All right. Well, I don't want us to go silent on each other here. If we, perhaps I've said all that we have to say about the subject of silence, but it was so good to see you. I'm so glad you decided to come back and do another episode of The High Functioning Hotspot with me.
Taylor Trusty [00:33:19] Happy to do it. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. Take care. Bye. Have a good weekend.
Dr. Chloe [00:33:20] Well, that was so great to be able to sit down and talk to Taylor about silence and learn a little bit about the role of silence in his life and what it was like for him to try exploring silence, especially in the context of a road trip that's certainly a good time to explore that kind of thing. I hope that all of you listening really enjoyed the conversation. And if you do decide to read the blog, or if you have thoughts about silence or anything else that you've heard on these podcasts, please know that I would love to hear from you, whether you want to tweet me or Facebook, me and share social media via or find some other way to share and connect.
Dr. Chloe [00:33:42] Let's not be silent. Let's go ahead and dialogue. I'd love to hear from you. Thank you so much for listening to The High Functioning Hotspot with me, Dr. Carmichael. To learn more about the show, you can always go to TheHighFunctioningHotspot.com or you can find me on social media. I'm all over social media on just about every platform. So wherever you are, I hope to see you there.
As a yoga teacher-turned-psychologist, I’ve always been amazed at the overlap between psychology and yoga, specifically in mindfulness and in silence. One yogic practice that I find fantastic as a psychologist is intentional and compassionate silence. Whether you are in a relationship or currently single and living alone, you might feel some sort of pressure to always answer the phone, constantly make small talk with a partner, or always have “something interesting” to say. Intentional silence is a great way to combat this pressure, and can just be a fun way to deepen your relationships and play around with nonverbal communication!
Intentional and compassionate silence is time you and your partner will hold, or you will hold for yourself, to be intentionally quiet. Here are some guidelines for defining a period of silence! Read the full blog