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WIMS Silence Challenge

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

It was not easy but we did not talk for 24 hours. Our friends at the Orange Effect Foundation hold an annual Silence Challenge to raise funds kids who need speech therapy but can’t afford it. Participants are asked not to talk for 24 hours. As a team focused on building empathy, we were all in! As we discussed the challenge, our team wondered how staying silent for 24 hours would affect us. Would it change us? This is what we learned.

Before the Challenge

To prepare for the challenge, we listed the things we thought would be difficult for us. For example, we knew it would affect our ability to communicate with others and make it more difficult to express our ideas. We also knew it would limit the use of certain features on our devices, like using voice to text on our phones.

During the Challenge

Ananya and Annika felt very strange not to be able to talk to other people. To communicate thoughts they used a lot of body movements--it was like a very long game of charades. There were many times they felt they couldn’t add ideas to a conversation quickly enough to really be part of it. They found it frustrating when people didn't understand what they were trying to tell them, and the people they were talking to looked like they were talking to themselves and felt they had to carry the weight of the conversation.

How it Changed Our Behavior

Margaret printed a page explaining that she couldn’t speak for 24 hours and why. She thought the sign would be useful, fun, and a good way to tell people about the challenge. However, once she got out in public, she realized she didn’t want to engage with anyone because she wouldn’t be able to explain much, and instead she found herself looking for the least chatty cashiers. She was surprised by the choices she made, and also that, for the most part, nobody noticed that she wasn’t speaking. When a cashier asked her a question that she couldn’t answer with body language, she was frustrated that she had to rely on someone else to answer.