art work by John Ceprano
CINERGY (tm) - Peacebuilding... one person at a time


“Silence is argument carried out by other means.”
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Though some might say ‘silence is golden’, it isn’t always the case that being silent is experienced positively when in conflict. This quote by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is an interesting one in this regard. That is, if we are trying to engage another person in a discussion about something important to us, being met by silence can serve to create tension, especially if the person does not appear present and concerned. At these times, silence may be interpreted as passive-aggressive, a lack of caring, patronizing, and other such attributions.

We may also often tend to attribute feelings and thoughts to those who remain silent and assume their views on the matter is not in agreement with our own. In this regard, we may conjure up reasons that the other person doesn’t own, and we may become frustrated and consider the other person is arguing by their silence. Generally, we experience this sort of interpretation as not feeling heard, of being stopped from discussing our respective perspectives on a matter, or of being thwarted and put down.

If you tend to remain silent when in conflict, or find it annoying when others do and do not respond to you, these questions might offer some insight:

  • Considering a time someone remained silent when you wanted them to respond, what specifically did you want from them (to say, show, etc.)?
  • How did you experience their silence?
  • How did you interpret their silence as an argument (if you did)?
  • What specifically made it so (your answer to the previous question)?
  • Looking back on this, what might you have said or asked to address the person’s silence at the time?
  • When you have remained silent when someone else expected a response from you, what was the situation about?
  • For what reason did you stay silent?
  • What about your silence might have been interpreted as argumentative?
  • What else might the other person have attributed to you about your silence?
  • What did you want to say that you didn’t? What kept you from doing so?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


This entry was posted in Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching, Silence. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. kelly adams says:

    yup. most of our current reactions to conflict have very little to do w what’s happening now! Its all about making past connections and then being able to choose a response that’s effective!

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Kelly…thank you for weighing in. I am curious how you think the topic of the blog re: silence figures into what your statement that it’s all about past connections.

  3. Les Lane says:

    Good article, Cinnie
    The only timesI have come across this is when the silent party didnt like what the other party was saying. Rather than respond with anger the response was silence. Have not had it happen very often though.

  4. As usual, Cinnie, great work. It takes courage to silence the link between biases or experience-laden barriers and the choice to express oneself when faced with the need to respond to someone. Humans anchor on the self first and must learn the connection between effective communication and durable relationships. Silence is not always a gift.

  5. Cinnie Noble says:

    I appreciate your comments – and it’s good to hear from you. Indeed silence is not always a gift and being silent at the ‘right’ time and in the ‘right’ way is key.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *