Lesson from Miss Louisiana: Power in Silence

Think what you will about pageants, but I learned a lot competing for Miss Louisiana. One of the skills that continues to hold on is the power of silence.

In the Miss USA and Miss America pageant systems, there is a portion of competition called On Stage Question. This is when you see the girls in evening gowns being asked a question by the emcee. I’m sure most people think of this old clip when they hear this term:

In defense of the teenager in this video answering a question most teenagers wouldn’t have an immediate answer to, that portion of the competition was pretty freaking hard.

Think about it: You’re in front of a huge crowd or on live television and get asked a completely random question about anything in the world. Oh, and you’re expected to immediately throw out an elegant answer.

The best advice I received regarding this portion of the competition was to pause and think. Crazy: Just stand there and think for five, long seconds in complete silence, while everyone stares at you.

Then again, how in the world can you answer a random question without stopping to think? Why would you not stop and think?

Yet, this is how most of us volley conversation day-to-day:

  • We listen to respond, meaning we are already thinking of what to say in response, while someone is talking, rather than listening to understand.
  • We feel we must have an immediate response handy, at all times, on all subjects.
  • We feel we must have an opinion on everything, even subjects we don’t know much about.

Generally speaking, we don’t know how to just shut the hell up anymore.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for her silence in conversation. People would leave parties, after meeting RBG, thinking she didn’t like them because she didn’t say much when they spoke to her. However, it was simply that RBG listened well and rarely responded immediately. We really don’t know how to handle that, these days.

Here are more situations where there is power in silence:

1) Power in silently walking away when our kids throw a temper tantrum and we feel we can’t model calm behavior at that moment.

2) Power in silently listening to someone who thinks differently than we do…. We might learn something!

3) Power in staying silent when we’re uncomfortable, rather than filling in the silence with words.

4) Power in not immediately responding when you don’t have an answer or response in conversation.

Deon Sumer
Hi, I’m Deon! I grew up in Zachary, Louisiana. I am currently attending Southern University Law Center part-time, where I am also a teaching assistant, with the intention of practicing family law. I work full-time at the East Baton Rouge Law Office of the Public Defender as a secretary. I had my daughter, Evelyn, in the fall of 2018 and am engaged to an amazing, supportive man named Ryan. I love traveling and exploring new places. A plane ticket to anywhere with a rental car waiting for me is a solid vacation. I have a degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science from LSU. I have a rescue dog at home and love helping with animal welfare efforts. My daughter’s first word was dog (or ‘gog’). I'm also always looking for ways to join the fight against Louisiana's domestic violence epidemic. I spend the majority of my free time gardening or wandering around our neighborhood with my family.


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