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Lowering the Volume in a World of Living Out Loud

Lowering the Volume in a World of Living Out LoudLife in the age of living out loud presents some unique challenges. You may have heard the well-known saying about jazz music that there is great importance in the notes that are not played, that the notes that are not played are as important as the ones that are. American jazz musician Miles Davis is often cited as the creator of the phrase, but it is sometimes attributed to other musicians as well.

The concept of the importance of space and silence is relevant in many artistic mediums, and is also applicable to human communication and interaction.

Constructive communication is best approached with a spirit of editing, of identifying what will not be said. I sometimes tell clients to think about their communication and interaction with others as a book that is being written. All books could benefit from editing and refining rough drafts. The editing of the self in the realm of communication may serve to not only avoid escalation and conflict; it may provide a chance to practice mindfulness and self-discipline in a way that benefits the self and others.

An argument generally consists of mutual interruption and an unedited, stream of consciousness output. Often things are said that are hurtful and reactive and cannot be taken back once they are communicated. An editing process includes being in touch with your thoughts and feelings and then being selective about what you will share. I have often shared with clients who posit that editing implies a lack of total honesty, that total honesty that is harshly communicated may be placed in the category of brutality.

It is rarely useful to just vent and “get everything out” because it may be hurtful and lead to unproductive and unwanted outcomes. Compassion for others includes considering the impact that our words may have on them. The goal is not perfect communication, rather humane, considerate and effective communication to the greatest extent possible.

Many people subscribe to the “never go to bed angry” principle and feel that they must work out a resolution with their partner before sleep. I have personally witnessed this backfire many times and end in increased conflict and even violence. Having time and the opportunity to calm and self-soothe often results in a significant modification in thoughts, feelings and eventual communication.

Once the “cool-down” occurs, things that seemed significant may diminish in their original importance. Taking the time to consider thoughtfully before speaking creates an opportunity. Evaluate if the intended communication will be hurtful or unproductive and modify accordingly to create productive communication.

Self-editing is not about total disregard of your true thoughts and feelings. I visualize it as a sort of filter that communications flow through to remove the harmful, reactive grit and debris.

It is more a way of handling what you think and feel to be true by being a responsible steward of when and how you share your thoughts and feelings. A process of discernment is recommended in order to evaluate whether your speech is productive and value-creating, and if not, what parts of it should be omitted or remain unexpressed.

When we are in a state of emotional arousal, it may be appropriate to self-edit all the way into a state of silence and non-doing. This buys some time to calm down, and consider how to express the frustration in a way that may pave the way to a solution.

Self-editing may be globally applied, and in terms of social media, it is an idea whose time has come. Consider dialing back with regard to sharing “empty calories” and applying a process of discernment towards sharing content. It is possible to turn down the volume in the age of living out loud.

Lowering the Volume in a World of Living Out Loud

Frances L. Hennessey, LICSW

Frances L. Hennessey, LICSW is a social worker, psychotherapist, and registered yoga teacher. She currently works with active duty military and their families.

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APA Reference
Hennessey, F. (2018). Lowering the Volume in a World of Living Out Loud. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Jul 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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