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Quiet Dignity (Confidence)

By 9:19 AM

I visited Sam Palfreyman, my old mission companion in Boston back in 2013. He's always been a font of wisdom and an example of a genuinely good and kind person. During my visit, our conversation drifted towards self-improvement and development, and we talked somewhat about something we had actually discussed on the mission - quiet dignity and confidence. I asked Sam to email me some thoughts on it, and this is what he sent over, June 25, 2013.


"So as my memory serves me (correctly or incorrectly I know not for sure), I believe I received a lesson on "Quiet Dignity" in one of my first District Meetings in Kuala Lumpur (my first area on my mission). Unfortunately, I do not have the notes with me, but I will attempt to recall some of my thoughts here as well as some observations. I hope this doesn't sound too preachy (this is not to say all of my thoughts apply to you or any one person, but rather the ideas are put in general terms to express a quality of decorum that I respect in others. I am very guilty of light-mindedness and flippant speech, so this was a good exercise for me to reflect upon). 

The gist of the matter is that there is a great power in speech, but it is only made powerful by the moments that go unspoken. As important as words are, they can be over-used to the point of making them completely useless. On the extreme side of things, people can develop a habit of swearing incessantly. This habit demonstrates a difficulty in expressing ones thoughts. Trite expressions and vulgar sayings are frowned upon by in large most audiences.

More often and more subtle, however, are the people who have a sense of propriety and a respect for elevated speech, but due to nervousness and anxiety they speak quickly before they can even process what has just been said by others. This habit is not fatal, and in fact, it often is quite acceptable in many social settings. But more often than not, a decorum reflecting quiet dignity is much more desirable for professional settings or even in cultivating higher respect from one's peers.

An interesting example comes from music. I am not a musician and thus I do not understand composition to any professional degree. But conceptually, I have heard from those who are that the only thing more important than composing the notes is inserting the rest notes. That is to say, there is a great deal of dramatic effect and framing that goes into choosing when to remain silent and when to make noise. This serves well to illustrate the point of quiet dignity. The person who knows when to speak is clever, but the person who knows when not to speak is all the more clever. Surely you can error on the side of being too silent (a song would be awful dull with no notes), but assuming we all use words to communicate, the conservation and intentional use of speech is quite remarkable.

Think of someone you admire who exhibits quiet dignity (perhaps a Church leader, a family member, or the Savior Himself). That person tends to carry himself  in a unique way. Rather than constantly talking he (or she) reserves the moments for conversation for when it is necessary; when there truly is something worth saying. Words are guarded as pearls of great price, not to be cast about without great care and forethought. There is a great confidence and power to this person's words. Rather than being conditioned to put on a smile and prepare to laugh at his cleverness, you open your ears to his words; you listen for the content that has been chosen, guarded, prepared. This quiet confidence is closely related to humility: a divine attribute worth striving for. Humility is not a weakness but a strength. To be possessed of it is not to be self-effacing but rather to put your trust in another and to patiently seek to do as He would do, and say what he would say."

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