Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Guilty

Back when I was in law school and then a baby lawyer, by day I thought and talked, and by night, dreamt, law.  Everything my senses took in raised a point of law and a “discussion” of the relevant facts. That’s a fine way to live if you are a law student or hang with baby lawyers.  It’s not so fine if you are talking to real people.  They tend to resent cross-examination for sport.

So, for the most part, I gave up my inquisitorial ways.  The older I get the more I realize that silence is best unless talking is absolutely necessary.  And then if you have to talk, say as little as possible.  (I don’t tend to follow this rule here, this is my guilty pleasure place.)  And think about what little you say, before you say it.  And, most importantly, listen to what is being said (and meant even if that isn’t what is being said) before you think or talk.

I’m told that women have more conversations than do men.  They listen to each other and respond.  Maybe, probably.  I do know that guys talk to talk.  “I said, did, heard, blah, blah, blah.”  “Yeah, non-sequitur, non-sequitur.”  “You got that right, did you believe that call by the umpire….” 

Or “you’re full of it, Jordan is the….”  “Wait just a minute, you just said that Kobe….”

And in spite of all the words above, that finally brings us to the point of the post.

We spend way too much time personally and as a society either not listening to what is said or trying to pick at each other.  Where’s the flaw in the other guy’s argument?  Forget the overall argument, where’s the little thing we can zing him with to throw him off?  Can’t find it?  Just start talking about something else or can I throw in something to move the argument in a different direction?

To sum up (or perhaps state it cogently for the first time):  We should think a lot and talk less.  Listen, then think again.  Perhaps as our first words, ask a question that doesn’t seek to trap and rather seeks to draw out what the other person means rather than what he may be saying.  Repeat as necessary until you agree or disagree but understand why.

It’s easy to do life the other way, don’t think, don’t listen (or listen only to those we agree with), avoid, argue; but, where does it get us?

This needs more thought and work; but, then, I’m lazy and have bad habits.


Big Mark 243 said...

This was a great observation. I strive to talk less and listen more.

But I ran across a term... 'Attention Economy', where people seek attention almost for its own sake and possible reward. Kind of explains why we are being innudated with such trival and unimportant bits of lives and how someone as unschooled as a few media figures are, can serve as spokespeople.

The Curmudgeon said...

It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt?

Looking quickly just now, it seems that this is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but may be from the Book of Proverbs.

Of course, I couldn't find it there. But I did find this one in Proverbs 13:23, "A lawsuit devours the tillage of the poor, but some men perish for lack of a law court." That comes right before the proverb that gave rise to spare the rod and spoil the child.

Still looking... Lincoln may have derived the saying from Proverbs 24:7 -- "For a fool, to be silent is wisdom; not to open his mouth at the gate."

But I'm going to keep my mouth closed at this point, except to say what fun is to talk only with people who agree with you?