Friday, May 25th, 2012
Silence can be Golden
As a communication professional it is my job to help clients find the right words to reach the right audience. I often say whether you’re speaking to an audience of one or one million, you’re always making a presentation. In all presentations and interpersonal communication, 55% of your impact is determined by your body language. What are you doing with your hands, your face, what you wear, and how you respond? I’ve taught that point hundreds of times over the years, but never did I feel it to be as true, as one interaction I had with an old and dear friend, not too long ago.
Recently, I received a phone call from my former News Director from WRDW in Augusta, GA. She called to let me know that my former co-anchor and dear friend was finally losing his year-long battle with cancer. I dropped everything, and flew to Augusta to see my friend before his illness could take him away. When I arrived I was flooded with feelings of happiness and sadness all at the same time. I was ecstatic that I made it and he was awake, alert, and not in too much pain when I arrived. I was so sad to see him lying in his bad, without energy, and struggling to keep his eyes open.
I pulled up a chair, held his hand, said hello, and then sat in silence for 10 minutes. I could see when he opened his eyes briefly that he was happy to see me. I could feel when he squeezed my hand, that he wanted me to stay, and he never had to say a word. When he opened his eyes again, I pulled out my iPad and started to read to him. Not Shakespeare or the latest sci-fi thriller, but actually, his Facebook page! From the moment people found out that his time to transition was coming, they’d been posting their favorite memories and lessons learned from him. I read anything that demonstrated the love and respect they were feeling from him, and with every new post, he squeezed my hand a bit more. There were a few that brought some smirks, and a few that brought some tears. Again, he never said a word, but I could feel how much he was moved.
When finished, I went back to sitting in silence holding his hand. He tried to talk a couple of times, but I said in my usual playful tone, “don’t talk, I know what you sound like! I didn’t come here for you to entertain me. I came to make sure you know that I love you like family, I appreciate everything you’ve ever taught me, and I respect you for all that you are. “ With that he nodded his head and we went back to sitting in silence and holding hands.
When it was time to go, I let him know I was going to hug him softly. I hugged him no fewer than 30 times, and probably kissed some part of his cheeks and forehead another 30 times. I whispered in his ear that I loved him again. He took my hand and whispered back, “I love you, too.” I walked out of the room, only to walk back in and hug and kiss my friend one more time, and then made my way out. When I made it to my car, I sat there for 10 minutes with the car off, and the silence of the evening around me. My only thought was that I had just experienced the most valuable 30 minutes of my life.
He didn’t need my words, I didn’t need his. At least not a lot of them. The peaceful holding of hands between two friends who spent six Thanksgivings together, co-anchored from the Masters Golf Tournament, a hockey game, a parade, a telethon, and a bunch of other cool things, was absolutely priceless. I would argue on that day, the body language was worth about 95%. I guess since I always conclude my blog with a tip, I will leave you with just this one:
Sometimes silence can be golden. Sometimes you don’t need to let a series of words flow from your mouth to their ears. Sometimes, sharing a moment in silence, however long or short, can be all either of you need.
In loving memory of my co-anchor, mentor and friend, Tom Campbell.
Tom’s Tribute: Click to YouTube
Note to readers: Tom Passed away on May 2, 2012. It took me this long to be able to share the powerful moment we spent together, the week before his death.
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