I'm not a very social animal so I still find silence in the presence of another person uncomfortable. I think I should say something or they should say something. But I have learned to be careful about what I say. I used to feel the void with pettiness or gossip, sprinkled with a lot of judgment.
I was reminded in a meeting this morning that silence is a tool I learned, a gift I can give myself and others. For example, when someone says something that makes me react with a strong feeling (in my head or heart), I don't have to say what I'm feeling. I can think about a response instead. I can take my time.
Or I can zip my mouth and say nothing. In this way, I have stopped many arguments before they took hold. I have also been able to keep family relationships intact rather than lose them, which I certainly would have had I kept on the path of destructiveness due to my vicious tongue.
This kind of silence is kind. It is not "giving the cold shoulder" which can be worse than just keeping quiet. It's not punishing someone for what I perceive to be an attack against me. To avoid this kind of silence, I can replace reacting with saying something neutral like "you may be right" or "that's an interesting way of looking at it."
However, I still have trouble coming up with a neutral statement when someone says or does something that I consider out of line. In this case, it is still best for me to say nothing at all. It keeps me from making the situation worse and possibly having to make amends later.
So now when I'm with someone, say driving in a car to an event, and the conversation has stalled, I can be grateful for the gift of silence. It's okay to not fill the airwaves with mindless chatter. If I'm really having a hard time with enjoying the silence, I can choose to turn on some music.
The point is that I have a choice. I'm not a victim of someone else's opinions or my own reactions to those. Thoughts and feelings come and go. They are not right or wrong. It's what we do with them that matters. Silence is one tool of many we receive in Al-Anon. For me, it has been golden.