Hearing Silences: The importance of ‘other’ stories of our world

The Human Experience

As human beings we all experience life differently.

Our past, present and even future selves are guided and shaped by our experiences of the world – what happens to us and what we observe happening around us to others. These things combine to give us a sense of how the world ‘works’ and help influence our beliefs about life, living and what we take to be ‘true’. In part, our understanding of the world comes from both what is inside us (our own experiences) and what we learn about others from external sources through media, shared stories, reading and observing.

As children we have little awareness of a world outside our own – in fact we often believe the world to be made up of exactly what we are experiencing until we meet ‘other worlds’ inhabited by our friends when we start school or visit homes outside our immediate family. As we move to adulthood we become more aware of a greater diversity of experiences beyond our own – the influence of ‘external sources on our thinking become more obvious. Our conversations, communications and even our thought processes are often influenced by what is happening in the world around us.

However, the stories that are told, the information given and the evidence provided does not always reflect the diversity of experiences or perspectives that make up our communities, our societies or our worlds. Throughout history, whether we look at the ‘news’ as reported in media or some of the evidence presented through research – certain perspectives, certain opinions are dominant, central to the information being shared, and other are missing.


“If we look closely we can see that the missing voices usually belong to those less powerful in any society”

Historically it has always been so – if we look closely we can see that the missing voices usually belong to those less powerful in any society; those at the margins due to their social, emotional, cultural, educational or economic position in a give society. These people are often the elderly, the sick, the poor, the minority ethnic communities, the unemployed or lower paid workers amongst us.

They are rarely included, asked to give their views or share their experiences to help inform our general understanding of the world – and when they are, there is often linked to a ‘rare occurrence’ such as war, famine, or natural disasters…reported as a story of ‘difference’, a novelty or exception, in essence a variation from what is ‘usual’. When presented thus, we continue to see them and their experiences as ‘other’ from ourselves, an exception to what really happens in the world – not to be included in mainstream reporting or evidence so as not to ‘skew’ the information presented.

Their experiences are missing, their voices are silenced in the world. 

The result of these omissions? That policies, laws, guidance and rules by which we live our lives in societies are developed in  ‘silence’ – and as a consequence, not only do some of our community members continue to be overlooked, but as a society we fail to benefit from the rich vein of information, experiences, ideas and viewpoints which could help us understand more about the shared challenges we face as humans beings and the world in which we live.

In essence the untold stories or missing voices say as much about us and our world as the accounts written and rewritten in history.