In conversations, sometimes it’s best to “be a little deaf”


“In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf. I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”  –Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [This excerpt from Ginsburg’s new book My Own Words appeared in a New York Times article.]

Your spouse, friend, colleague, or total stranger makes a silly, unnecessary, provocative, or dubious statement. It may be, at best, trivial, inaccurate, vague, or unfair; at worst, it’s tacky, wrong, even hurtful.

When is it okay to just let verbal flatulence slowly dissipate without addressing it, and when is response compulsory?

As Ginsburg advises, sometimes no response is the best response.

Granted, there are times when unwholesome words should be addressed, particularly if someone is a repeat offender. Chronic verbal abuse is inexcusable and should not go unchallenged.

So the question is: when should you ignore and when should you respond to an off-putting statement?

In the coming days, exercise the “Ginsburg-restraint.” It is a tool we all need in our relational toolbox.

6 Replies to “In conversations, sometimes it’s best to “be a little deaf””

  1. I love your descriptive term “verbal flatulence” to more colorfully label the plethora of rhetorical garbage that has invaded our society/culture on almost every front, save our church families. It is why many of us are choosing to “cut the cord,” turn off the noise, and be more selective in who or what we listen to. Yet when confronted with abusive language and our values are disregarded, one should assert why such comments are unacceptable. Because, when there is no push back, or no challenge supplied to an offender, then they will freely continue to target you, and others, without thought. What would Jesus do?

    1. Bill, your thoughts are well said and worth saying. There’s just too much talk/clutter in our world today. I sometimes long for a simpler time. Take care, Don

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