In praise of listening


A fault of the modern age, and one which I regularly demonstrate to my regret, is the inability to just listen and form an opinion sensibly. In the era of Twitter and all the other social media, this problem and its consequences are sometimes catastrophically magnified.

So I was struck by a couple of quotes that passed in front of me, from two somewhat different sources. Firstly the genuinely authoritative Dexter Filkins on the “truly evil figure” (copyright General David Petraeus) of Iranian Quds force commander, Qassem Suleimani, who is much in the news at the moment.  Filkins wrote The Forever War, a fantastic account of the world’s travails since – and including –  9/11. Here he is in a terrific New Yorker profile on Suleimani:

When Suleimani appears in public—often to speak at veterans’ events or to meet with Khamenei—he carries himself inconspicuously and rarely raises his voice, exhibiting a trait that Arabs call khilib, or understated charisma. “He is so short, but he has this presence,” a former senior Iraqi official told me. “There will be ten people in a room, and when Suleimani walks in he doesn’t come and sit with you. He sits over there on the other side of room, by himself, in a very quiet way. Doesn’t speak, doesn’t comment, just sits and listens. And so of course everyone is thinking only about him.”

I must try that more at hospital management meetings.  I mean it. Less is more.  Suleimani is a fascinating figure on many levels.

St James
St James

The other source is Saint James, this from the great Richard Challoner’s Douai-Rheims translation (James 1:19-20, 26) :

…let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger.  For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God…. And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’ s religion is vain.

Painful reading for some of us, but a remarkably complementary piece to Suleimani’s Islamic realpolitik behaviour.

So, listen more, keep your own counsel, tweet less.



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