A Word From the Wise

September 24, 2014

I saw this article by  Sam de Brito in the Sydney Morning Herald  an thought it  useful for candidates or employers engaging in a Job search. Sometimes we ask too much or share too much in the process.


I bought a bookcase on eBay some months ago and during the pick-up, I chatted with the seller, a lovely English woman, as you do.

Some topic du jour arose and I spoke plainly on the matter and the woman nodded as if to say, "yes, I understand your point" but made no reply.

Driving home, bookcase precariously strapped to the roof of my car, I reflected that this woman – like most of us – probably had an opinion on the subject we had broached, yet, astonishingly, she chose to keep it to herself.

It made me realise how rare it is to meet people under the age of 50 who feel no need to give you their thoughts on a matter, who keep their own counsel.

It wasn't so long ago that it was considered the height of politeness to refrain from voicing opinions to people – except your most intimate circle of friends and family.

I shudder to think how brash and irrelevant many older folks consider the conversations of the young today, particularly when we offer up strident convictions on subjects and people that most of us know absolutely nothing about.

As someone paid for his opinion, this probably sounds duplicitous, however I know I'm not the first columnist (or reader of a columnist) who has thought, "Jeez, it would be nice to not crap on about anything this week".

Socially, it's refreshing to meet someone with the self-awareness to say, "I've not read or contemplated enough about that subject to give you my thoughts".

A fellow who was rather full of opinions, but of the brilliant and crystalline variety — Frenchman Michel de Montaigne – wrote of the chattering classes in the 16th century who "instead of gaining knowledge of others we strive to give knowledge of ourselves, and take more pains to peddle our wares than to get new ones".

Addressing the education of children he said they "should not take exception to the stupid things and wild tales that will be told in his presence, for it is uncivil and annoying to hit at everything that is not to our taste. Let him be content with correcting himself, and not ... set himself up against common practices".

Silence and modesty as a template for social intercourse probably seems a quaint vestige for generations raised on the constant, inane arguments over social media, where the loudest voice and most specious "fact" often garners the greatest attention (and "likes").

Meanwhile, the giants of past thought wither in the pages of unread books, unchallenged.

Montaigne says: "He will be taught not to enter into discussion or argument except when he sees a champion worth wrestling with, and even then will not use all the tricks that can help, but only those that can help him most. Let him be fastidious in choosing and sorting his arguments, and fond of pertinence, and consequently of brevity."

Thus the wise waste no words and gibberers waste our time with thousands of 'em. 

A current ad on Fox Sports exhorts viewers to "be heard" and "be seen" and post comments on their Twitter and Facebook pages. 

It brings to mind the old saying, "If you want to be seen, stand up. Want to be heard, speak up. Want to be appreciated? Shut up".

OK, I'll be quiet now.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/a-word-from-the-wise--shut-up-20140918-10gf98.html#ixzz3EBci1TNW

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September 24, 2014

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