Sunday, 20 May 2012

World Communications Day 2012: Silence and Word

Pope Benedict XVI has written a message for the 2012 World Communications Day entitled Silence and Word: Path for Evangelisation.

The Daughters of St Paul have a particular mission to evangelising through the media, historically the print media, but nowadays the electronic means of communication too. My side bar has a link to an initiative of one of their sisters in the United States: Windows to the Soul Blog. Another of their sisters has written a reflection on silence to mark the World Communications Day: The Sounding Silence. I was particularly taken by this paragraph, referring to Pope Benedict's message (my emphasis added):
The Pope wrote exclusively about silence as it relates to interpersonal communication and the sharing of “advice, ideas, information, and answers,” especially with respect to evangelization. He could just as easily have included entertainment. In fact, entertainment now constitutes one of the most frequent uses of media overall. One source claims that 100 million video clips are viewed on YouTube every day. Can we abstain here and there? We seem to guzzle much of what comes our way: food, commodities, sexual and social interaction, and media. Even naturally speaking, occasional abstinence from these sharpens the appetite, refines sensibilities, and increases pleasure. Chronic and indiscriminate indulgence, instead, dulls them and increases the risk of dependence. I was intrigued by the number of my Facebook “friends” who gave up the networking site for Lent. I would be interested in what they thought of their experience. Mere abstinence doesn’t bring us closer to the Lord, but when this “silence” is filled with the Word of God in one way or another, it can prepare us to search for God in our media experiences and integrate them with Gospel values.
The last paragraph of this post suggests that we take a moment each day to stop and listen to the sounds of the world around us.  On those unusual occasions when I travel on a train during rush hour as people are travelling too and from work, I am always stunned by how inattentive many are to their surroundings, to the people and environment around them. The earphones and the iphones rule.

The slide show at this page usefully explores some of the ideas associated with this theme. Some of the slides strike a particular chord with someone whose working life involves responding to the situations of colleagues or to consultations about changes taking place in the workplace. "In the practice of silence we avoid being tied to our own untested point of view". If a trade union representative fires off before they have fully understood a situation they can all too easily make a situation worse and render themselves ineffective in contributing to resolving it. "... silence is essential for discernment in order to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary". That, again, is an important skill in trade union work - seeing what really matters in a situation, and focussing on responding to that. And a slide that kind of sums up its relevance to my line of work: "In silence, we gain clarity and understanding of: what we want to say, what we expect of others; how we choose to express ourselves".

These considerations are evangelising, and people do notice when you put them into practice. I have in a past role (not a trade union one, as it happens, but one that did involve quite high powered meetings) been complimented by officers involved on being someone who asked good questions. And only this week a colleague commented on my more thoughtful approach to things in comparison to others. And that is effective communication.

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