Saturday, 7 December 2013

Letting Loose the Tacenda

".......a time to keep silence, and a time to speak"  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I learned a new word today. I love learning new words. It came just at the right time, as these things do. A friend was saying how, as she ages, she is turning off her filters. Of course, I don't believe her. What she is doing is speaking her mind more, yes, but I know she wouldn't say anything hurtful without reason, because she's too kind. As always there is discretion, if one is wise.

This is something I have struggled with my entire life, and I've written about it many times. I think it's right to struggle with this. I think it's wrong to absolutely not care what comes out of one's mouth, because words cannot be retracted once out, and some of them do great damage. 

At the same time, certain things need to be said. There is no easy formula to any of this, a decision always has to be made. Some things should be said at specific times only. Oh, no, this is not easy. Why should it be easy? 

Some people can accept the truth, and some really can't. But it's a reality that as we get older, not only do we "get away with it" more, but we actually get listened to. People really do believe that we are wiser. I sure hope we are. 

I confess I am frustrated by people who don't listen to very carefully thought out advice. Even when they know it's good advice. They ask for advice, they appear to be listening, and then...they don't follow it. See..hearing and listening are two different skills.

What my kids and grandchildren get into most trouble for is not listening. I can tolerate all sorts of things, but I get so frustrated with the not listening that I want to throw my hands in the air, but you can't give up. You have to keep trying, keep at it. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So, I turned it around. Why don't I take advice given to me? 

Because it's wrong. Because it's crap advice. Because it doesn't work for me. 

In fact, being given bad advice is not a frequent experience for me. Most of the advice I've been given in my my life has been good, I've taken it, and I've been grateful. Where I have been let down is lack of advice, not too much of it. It is obvious therefore, with that in my mind, that I have a natural bias towards too much advice rather than too little. 

Still, unsolicited advice tends not to be welcome, I know that, I do hold back, and I do wait to be asked.

So how do we choose who to listen to?


Past behaviour is the best prediction for future behaviour. It is not a guarantee, but when it's all you've got, the wisest thing to do is go with that. Logic, not emotions.

So. If George has given you advice in the past, and at least the majority of it is good advice, trust George again. If Fred has a better ratio of good advice, go to him instead. If Harold has given mostly bad advice DON'T ASK HIM. 

Sometimes what we do is ask for advice from several people, including those with a poor track record of success in the advice area, and choose from that pool what we wanted to hear. This is a mistake.

If the person speaking their mind has a good track record, it's probably a good idea to listen to them even if we don't like what they are saying. Because otherwise there's no point seeking advice at all. 

Ah, but..................How do we know we are offering good advice? Same way. Test the results. 


I think we can agree he was a pretty sharp cookie.

He believed that advice (solicited or otherwise) should be Honest, Kind, and Useful.

Seriously, you can't go far wrong with that. 

Therefore, the other way of looking at it is the reverse. What not to say.

Obviously if it's not honest, it should be avoided. Yes, this even includes flattery. You don't have to always tell the whole truth. 

Kindness is a good rule of thumb, even if sometimes you have to be quite blunt to be kind in the long run. But if it is actually cruel to say something, it's probably best avoided. 

Finally, if there really is no benefit to saying it, then it really is almost always better to keep your trap shut. 

I think what happens is that we speak from emotion too much. That doesn't mean emotion is a bad thing. It guides wisdom every bit as much as cold analysis does. But emotion can compromise wisdom too. If it gets out of balance and takes over, bad decisions can be made. All it needs is a little time. A little chill out. And if you practice, you can take a deep breath and react without emotion running the show. 

If you might regret it later, shut up. 


  1. As I get older I am finally learning to shut up more. It does not come naturally.

  2. Well that's it. Exactly. It's a study in tact, diplomacy, and discernment. And it's good for me.