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The Importance Of Silence In Human Interaction

Decent Essays
Silence in human interaction is an extremely complex construct. Silence can have numerous conceptual meanings ranging from complete acceptance to complete rejection. It can be an indication of a person’s pace of thought or understanding (Johannesen, 1974; Tannen, 1993). As a communicative vehicle, silence carries a hidden component in every verbalisation (Zeligs, 1953).
Before we can consider its’ effects on the recipient, we first need to put context to the specific interpretation of silence with regards to this study. In this case we are examining the effect on the interviewer as a recipient in a suspect interview.
Silence is commonly associated with punishment and negative behaviour. When children misbehave, they are told to sit in silence on the naughty step. The ‘silent treatment’ is a subtle form of ostracism, where the lack of communicative engagement is used to express disapproval and punishment. Silence has the power to create a sense of discomfort and can be used as a sign of displeasure by its user (Landers, 2017). It is regarded as a power tactic (Falbo and Peplau, 1980; Kipnis, 1984). Leonardo da Vinci said of silence, “nothing strengthens authority so much as silence”. When Gottman (1979, 1980) categorised disengagement behaviours present in damaged relationships, the ‘silent treatment’ featured as a sub-category. It is used by young children as a form of control (Asher and Coie, 1990; Barner-Barry, 1986; Cairns and Cairns, 1991), and as a form of rejection
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