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Six Times When Intelligent People Don't Speak
Wise Monkey - "Say No Evil"
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” - Plato
At first glance, the quote above seems to divide the world into two groups of talkers; but it also suggests that the same talkers can be both wise and foolish based on what and when they speak.
Whether they talk from political, religious or social platforms, or they only participate in conversations with friends and relatives, the following guidelines can help to produce more instances of intelligent talkers who know when to refrain from talking.
Here are six situations when thinking, listening, observing and self-control may be more advantageous than talking.
(1) Silence Is Inappropriate
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. . . a time to be quiet and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 7).
There are tons of opportunities for people to promote causes and represent the voiceless. There are also many participants in these forums who want to talk about their issues anytime and anywhere because they think that doing so augments their identity. It is foolish to believe that everyone everywhere will be interested in what they have to say.
There are certain occasions when people in the spotlight prefer little or no talk.
- “Congratulations” suffices for the person who is rejoicing.
- “Hello, I’m here” is enough during times of grief and loss.
- “I’m sorry,” is appropriate for one who shares a disappointment.
- “Thank you,” is the greatest response to an expression of admiration.
The silence which follows these thoughtful phrases may create desire for more conversation later, rather than create disgust at one’s excessive talking.
(2) There's a Time to Listen
"Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish." (Proverbs 18:13)
Talkers who will not stop talking to listen appear self-centered and conceited. Anxious to talk, they jump to conclusions after a few pieces of information, only to be embarrassed when they are cited for providing false reports. Intelligent listeners soon stop listening to them.
Intelligent talkers want to deliver accurate and relevant information which comes from listening, reading, researching and reviewing.
It is especially foolish to offer suggestions and make up answers to questions when “I don’t know” is the most honest response. Admitting lack of knowledge on a particular topic only proves the talkers’ respect for correctness. It renders him or her trustworthy, not foolish.
(3) The Ego Is Inflating
"Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips." (Proverbs 27:2)
This quote does not prevent talkers from stating their credentials. However, it begs them not to take off on ego trips.
William Clarkson addresses boasting in his sermon titled Praise of Man:
"Many men are guilty of the unseemliness and the folly of praising themselves - their ingenuity, their shrewdness, their persuasiveness, their generosity, etc. Probably if they knew how . . . very soon they weary their audience, how often their language becomes positively nauseous, they would abstain."
Dr. J. D Parker in his sermon Self-Boasting strikes a balance:
“There is a sense in which every man ought to be able to praise himself; otherwise the applause of the public will be left by him to be a mockery and a lie.”
These two expositions on the same Scripture text, make it clear that it is wise for talkers to appreciate their achievements, but foolish to boast about them.
(4) Talking Becomes Gossiping
"A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence." (Proverbs 11:13)
Spinning Both Tales and Yarn
Are confidences kept when a story is shared without revealing names?
Sometimes, when talkers need to illustrate a viewpoint in one of their speeches, they relate the story of someone who confided in them. Pastors, counselors, politicians, neighbors often transgress here. They leave out the names, but give details which point to the subject of the illustration, resulting in the start and spread of gossip—not what they intended but also not an intelligent share.
Then there are talkers who earn titles like bigmouth, chatterbox and windbag because they gossip regularly and without remorse. They may need help to understand the ethics of good conversation, and guidance toward study materials which could provide suitable content for their discussions.
With Facebook and similar media outlets so ready to share, talkers who care about their integrity might choose to tell fewer stories.
(5) It is Tempting to Lie
"Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech." (Proverbs 4:24).
With practice, talkers become good at lying, and it takes little effort for them to fit the lies into their talks in a way that accomplishes their selfish goals:
- They report facts but leave out the details which do not serve their purpose.
- They replace a word (with a different shade of meaning) into a flowery-sounding quote.
- They inflate testimonials to make themselves seem more capable than they really are.
- They misrepresent the opponents’ records to present themselves as the better candidate.
These foolish talkers assume that listeners are not wise enough to catch the lies; and on this premise, they build a world of falsehood which only hurts them when the deceit crumbles.
Intelligent talkers credit other people with intelligence and respect their right to know the truth. They know that it is wiser not to talk than to talk deception.
(6) Not Certain What to Say
"Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent." Proverbs 17: 28
Humility, wisdom and self-control are among the virtues of talkers who deliberately keep quiet during the buzz session. They may be uncertain of the facts or they may prefer to think through their ideas to lessen their chances of being misunderstood. The rest of the group may consider them wise observers because they say nothing to prove otherwise.
Summary on When To Refrain from Talking
(1) when talking is inappropriate
(2) when it is time to listen
(3) when the ego is inflating
(4) when talking becomes gossiping
(5) when tempted to lie
(6) when uncertain what to say
Proverbial sayings in different languages add meaning to the text:
- "Talking comes by nature, silence of understanding." - German
- "Silence is the ornament of the ignorant." – Sanskrit
- “Speech for a shekel [unit of currency], silence for two; it is like a precious stone.” - Greek
The Biblical Illustrator confirms,“ A cool head with a warm heart is an admirable composition.”
Passion is appropriate when talkers can present with clarity and confidence, but in the event of uncertainty, silence is golden.
Bible Quotes are from the New Living Translation Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Clarkson, W; The Praise of Man, Copyright 2004 - 2016 by Bible Hub
Parker, J D.D.; Self-Boasting, Copyright 2004 - 2016 by Bible Hub
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Proverbs 17:28, Copyright 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, Inc.
© 2016 Dora Weithers