Skip to main content


Every now and then: Shut up and listen! The exercise projects humility. Plus, you might actually learn something. Of course, it’s easier said than done, no pun intended. Listening requires intentionality and, wait for it … patience. Most people are way more interested in talking about all they “know” rather than listening and learning all they don’t.

Until such time the self-unaware babblers among us realize that good conversation is a two-way street, tortured listeners may find consolation and humor in these succinct words on wisdom.

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” — philosopher and social critic Bertrand Russell

“The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.” — criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow, famous for defending the right to teach the theory of evolution

“The wise know their weakness too well to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows best how little he knows.” — President Thomas Jefferson

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” — Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“People with a sense of humor do not take themselves too seriously. They are able to ‘stand off’ from themselves, see themselves in perspective, and recognize the ludicrous and absurd aspects of their pretensions.” — theologian and ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr


It is hardly coincidental that individuals who talk far more than they listen also lack humility. And, almost without exception, such individuals are too arrogant and ignorant to realize their shortcomings. Consider:

“I do have actually much more humility than a lot of people would think.” — President Donald Trump (whose manifestly hypocritical assertion attests to the truism, “Better to be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and prove it.)

You might ask (or plead), how can we teach good listening skills, let alone humility?

“One of the thorny issues is that people who are the most open and willing to cultivate humility might be the ones who need it the least, And vice versa: The most in need could be the most resistant.” — Hope College (MI) psychologist Daryl Van Tongeren (from The New York Times, 10-22-19)

Perhaps good listening is self-taught. To assess your one-sided blather quotient, you need to hit pause and then playback what you considered to be a “conversation.” If you are not humbled by what you learned, then you need to shut up and listen harder.

Leave a Reply