Less is More 5/12

May 2012

It was pretty easy to get away with disobedience in my family of origin, purely as a result of the chaos that comes with eight children under one roof.

The less fearful and more adventurous children pushed the boundaries, while the others mostly fell in line. Think ‘The Sound of Music’ without the music, the mansion or the governess, but with one more child and plenty of nuns next door.

No, my father wasn’t a drill sergeant. But he was one of those people who rarely spoke. When he did speak, we sat up and took notice. It’s fair to say I feared his displeasure. His words punctuated the air, as they were few and to the point.

For a number of reasons, I’m suddenly, acutely aware of the meaningless chatter in which we often engage. (mea culpa)

I’m reading a fascinating book called Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. This book brings to light the overwhelming bias towards extroversion in our North American culture, and the much needed strengths of the thoughtful introvert.

In this information age with constant contact, it’s ever so easy to become overwhelmed with infinite communication – even if you’re an extrovert and often love that sort of stimulation. Introverts, who make up one-third to one-half of our population, often do not.

So, if less is more, I’m going to be very brief and share 10 ideas to consider to reduce stimulation, overwhelm and noise, and increase thoughtfulness. No matter from which side of the introversion/extroversion scale you hail, just maybe you crave less wordiness.

1. Think about the last meeting you attended. How long should it have really taken?

2. Can we have spiritual growth, epiphanies or awareness in a noisy mind?

3. Music is wonderful, but do we need to hear it 24/7?

4. Facebook and Twitter force us to be concise, but are we saying anything important?

5. What makes you want to have the last word?

6. Can you eat in silence, without television or newspaper?

7. Try thinking before you speak, if that is not your nature. What do you think might happen?

8. How much of our “news” is newsworthy?

9. What is your intention when you gossip?

10. From what kind of environment do your best ideas come?

We’re always trying to do more, be more and learn more. Maybe it’s time to do something less. Take something away instead of taking more on.
• Say less.
• Promise less.
• Work less.
• Drink less.
• Eat less.
• Buy less.

Imagine the beautiful space that is created when you slow down and become quiet.

A nice balance between thoughtfulness and expression is good for individuals and relationships, and makes good music too. Mom was definitely a fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” My dad disliked music in general. But if he had to choose, it would probably be a tune from Simon and Garfunkel – “The sound of silence.”

If you want to be heard, you can always try my father’s way. Less is more.