insights on communication skills

Insights on Communication Skills and Relationship Building

Professional Communication Skills: The Quiet Car

Posted by Bridget Beirne on October 8, 2013

Quiet is an important part of your professional communciation skills.

I am a huge fan of the Quiet Car on the train. It feels like you've instantly been transported to a time of more civilized travel- there should be scones. Or at the very least, some hot tea.

I didn't always know the wonders of the Quiet Car. In fact, I remember eschewing it for a long time, especially if I was traveling with someone. (That kind of goes without saying- no talking allowed [or aloud!] in the Quiet Car...) However, I remember distinctly stumbling upon the car one day while I was traveling alone, exhausted, just wanting to be- quiet. How novel! I thought to myself "Well, why not?".

It. Was. Amazing! Not only could I read, or work, or sleep in peace, but the whole tone of the car was more calm. The stress of the travel seemed to fall away. I arrived at my destination refreshed and centered, rather than frazzled. 

professional communication skilsScience, medicine, and religion have long touted the benefits of quiet. (Find a great article on the myriad of gifts given by some quiet time here.) For my (unscientific) part, there have been a couple of impactful moments in my silent travels. 

The first occurred during a trip where there was a group in the Quiet Car that did not want to abide by the rules. It certainly wasn't that they didn't know the rules- there are multiple signs, as well as conductors coming around and remind you that phone calls or loud conversations aren't permitted, and that if you're looking for a place to talk, you have to go to another part of the train, all of that jazz. When this particular group entered, they were not only loud (and arguably slightly inebriated...) but belligerent when other passengers requested quiet. Conductors spoke to them (they weren't belligerent with them, at least...) but as soon as they went along their way, the loud talk returned. It was strange, and upsetting. Eventually, after this had gone on for what seemed like ages, the train got to their stop, and they rambled off.

And the rest of the car rolled their eyes, muttered "can you believe that?" and returned to their regularly scheduled peaceful travels.

I realized what bothered me in that moment- when you sit there, you're agreeing to a social contract. "Yes, I will be respectful in the volume, tone and frequency of my speech, so that we can all have the travel experience we would like." Respect and consideration are vitally important to ALL communication, and the fact that these folks thought they were above the law when it came to common courtesy was- well, I'd be lying if I said upsetting. It was infuriating! (Kind of defeats the purpose of finding peace in the Quiet Car, huh?)

However, I recently had the opposite experience. On a train from New York to Boston, the car was a nice sanctuary where everyone was abiding by this social contract. Besides the calming effects of the less-raucous travel, I found I could listen more- TRULY listen. To the sounds of the doors clicking, the "whhoooosh!" of the Acela passing on the neighboring track, the click of the conductor's punch marking off tickets, the lovely (though very quiet!) brief conversation two women had across the aisle from me, where one helped another put her heavy luggage up on the overhead rack.

I could listen, and listen actively. As a result, I could think more slowly, more clearly. I could focus on where I was in that moment, and then prepare for where I was headed. The silence was not only gilded, but vibrant, restorative, and productive as well.


Do you travel in the Quiet Car? How do you find some quiet time in your work day, or daily life? Sound off (no need to hush!) in the comments below!


Topics: Building Relationships, Communication, Etiquette, Travel