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Brett Banfe Discusses His One-Year Vow of Silence

Aired September 5, 2001 - 16:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I've said it myself, I'd like to be a better listener. Of course, most often I have too much to say and I just won't shut up long enough to do it. In any case, that is not the case with 19-year-old college student Brett Banfe. He is speaking today for the first time in a year, took a year-long vow of silence and said he wanted to become a better listener.

And Brett has plenty to say now. He joins us live from New York.

Well, Brett, we saw you speaking earlier at Hard Rock, I guess, in New York.

BRETT BANFE, TOOK ONE-YEAR VOW OF SILENCE: Planet Hollywood.

CHEN: Oh, Planet Hollywood. Sorry, sorry.

BANFE: They'd kill me.

(LAUGHTER)

CHEN: Well, I'm glad to see that you've been given voice. I understand that you decided to use Shakespeare for your first words. I don't want you to read it all...

BANFE: Yeah.

CHEN: ... but can you give us the best line out of that to describe your experience?

BANFE: Well, the quote that I used to break the silence was "To thine own self be true, and it must follow from night to day thou canst not then be false to any man." And that's just a quote that song. Basically, if you're just true to yourself, then you can't really be false to anyone else. And you know, you know, stuff will work out. Stuff will happen, go in a good direction, and it will all happen on cue like it should.

CHEN: Well, I guess it did for you. Now, look, Brett, we've got questions from the Web chat audience. Jane Smithe asks: "Why not just stop talking for a day, a week, or a month? Why did you pick a whole year?"

BANFE: For the same reason you asked that question, because like... CHEN: Because the mountain was there.

BANFE: ... it just seems way out there. And I'm the type of person that if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it way out there and get it done.

CHEN: Now, was it difficult?

BANFE: Yeah. Well, it was -- it was difficult in the beginning just to adjust, but it was just like a change in lifestyle. After a month, it just wasn't even -- wasn't even difficult at all. It was just, you know, talking wasn't even an option. I was just a nontalker, which is weird, because when I first talked, you know, I had like everything -- I had been training myself to not talk, and now I had to go against all that and just throw a word out there.

CHEN: Yeah. Well, we want to give a little more voice to our Web chat audience here, Brett.

BANFE: Sure.

CHEN: I know you have a lot to say here.

BANFE: Absolutely.

CHEN: And there is another question from Susan Anderson. "How hard was it for him when he was around his friends?" Did your friends give you a hard time? Did they try to get you to say something?

BANFE: No. Actually, it improved friendships, and a lot of my friends said that they thought it would be really weird now when I do start talking, because silence is a language that we all speak. This is one of the things that I've come to learn, and it's everywhere, and everyone deals with silence. It's the most fundamental thing on this Earth, and so I was just getting in tune with that. And it's like most people are afraid of the silence, but I was just getting comfortable with it. And like friendships can -- can really grow.

CHEN: Yeah, I understood that you had a little technology that assisted you with that.

BANFE: Right.

CHEN: I mean, it would like send out little messages to people, keep in touch.

BANFE: Yeah, I could type if I had to. Something -- I had this little handheld...

CHEN: Gizmo.

BANFE: ... pager from Motorola.

CHEN: And that helped you out a lot?

BANFE: Yeah. CHEN: Now, look, I understand that you went off to college in this year, you got into a relationship, you got a job. You actually also got in a little trouble with the cops I guess at one point.

BANFE: Yeah.

CHEN: How do you do that?

BANFE: I've done it all.

CHEN: You've done it all. You had the full experience.

BANFE: In the past year. Yeah, it's hard for people to even imagine, because like when I first decided to not speak and brought it all out, they had cameras on. They were -- everyone wanted to know why and stuff. And then the story just dropped and I was left alone just to fulfill my promise. And I didn't do it in front of any cameras, I just did it, you know, for myself. And even when the story wasn't big in September, I was still not talking.

CHEN: All right.

BANFE: And I mean, in July, I was still not talking.

CHEN: And now, here you are, talking away. Here's another question from the Web chat audience. Ilise DeSanti asks: "Has the Guinness book heard of you yet?"

BANFE: I don't know. Properly people inside the organization. I don't know what I'm doing would actually get a Guinness record, since there's -- there's one guy -- his name is Maher Babba (ph) or something -- and he spent 43 years silent. So can't even touch that.

CHEN: No, I don't think you want to go 43 years.

BANFE: Definitely don't.

CHEN: Did your voice work -- did your voice work right away when you started using it?

BANFE: Yeah. Well, the first words I actually spoke I spoke to myself the night before in just a prayer, because I wasn't going to go on live TV without having said a word in a year. I would have just looked like a complete retard.

CHEN: You were sounding like a 13-year-old with your voice cracking or something.

BANFE: Exactly. Exactly. And it was a lot to go through anyway. You know, because when you talk, you're always trying to express yourself. When you listen, that's a chance for you to understand yourself. So I just basically took a year just to like understand myself to the depths that I can't even explain, stuff that -- stuff that's there that you just wouldn't even imagine. So...

CHEN: Well, we're glad we had an opportunity to understand you a little bit better today, Brett. Thanks very much, Brett Banfe. He's a...

BANFE: Thank you, Joie.

I like your name, too.

CHEN: Well, thank you very much. I'm...

BANFE: Such an interesting spelling of that. I really like that.

CHEN: Well, it works for me, thanks. I appreciate it, Brett. Take care.

BANFE: Have a good one.

CHEN: Good luck with your talking.

BANFE: OK.

CHEN: All right. Are you inspired by Brett? Well, you can learn how to cope without speaking for a year from Brett's Web site, which very interestingly is titled notspeaking.com. Here's a tip page on talking in text and showing your emotions with the help of a keyboard. This might work if you want to join the NEWS SITE chats as well.

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