Ratting Yourself Out

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Close friends and family make a joke out of how much I dislike movies. At first glance, most folks probably think this is due to me not being able to see the screen. Negative. It’s totally, TOTALLY an attention span thing. I loathe sitting through a two hour movie of average quality then, at the end saying, “Welp, there’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back!”

So, this may be a little odd (and disjointed) when I share a scene from a movie. And worse? I’m not even 100% sure what movie I’m talking about!

Let’s assume I do, though, and let’s hope my memory serves correct and I really AM referring to “Rush Hour.” (One of ’em, I don’t remember which). A fast talking L.A. cop reminiscent of Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, is put in charge of an Asian law enforcement expert while the Asian guy is in town. The L.A. cop hates this task, talks all kind of crap to, about and around the visitor. The Asian visitor politely smiles, says nothing, and disregards the angry and frustrated tone of his “host.”

A bit later in the flick, the Asian busts out with some perfectly articulated English. When the L.A. cop asks him why he’d waited so long to reveal his fluency, the Asian says, “I’ve found it’s best to just let people talk for a while. That way, you can see just how full of shit they are.”

A subtle reminder to just keep quiet? Yup.

Now, flashback to a meeting I attended last week. I was sitting down with two guys who work in the home construction business. Put any two builders together and, within minutes, they’ll start talking about what idiots inspectors are. The case was no different here.

One builder explained how an inspector showed up to his property. They shook hands, introduced themselves, then the inspector started examining the project. The builder followed close at his heels, always ready to answer questions, but never speaking without being asked directly.

After the inspection, the two stood silently while the inspector glanced over his notes. One minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. Never did the inspector raise a pencil or a question, just silently read his paperwork. Finally, the builder asked, “Is there anything else you need to inspect?” The inspector glanced up and said, “Is there anything else you need to show me?” The builder looked back and said, “Well, you’re the inspector…and you’ve seen it all. Is there a problem with anything?”

Pure genius here….

The inspector said, “If I stand here quietly for a while, most often, the builder will start to ramble on and spill the beans about what’s not up to code.”

Since the builder didn’t do this, inspection passed!

Silence is truly golden sometimes, isn’t it? And for a dude who makes his living speaking, this pains me to say! The key here that both the Asian law enforcement expert AND the builder know is when to talk…and when to keep their traps shut. We could all take a lesson, don’t ya think?

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  • Ron Graham

    Its like that old saying: ”Its better to keep your mouth shut and let others think you’re an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    It will probably come as no big surprise to hear that not saying anything is a big tool for counselors, therapists, and psychologists. When practicing therapy, it is important to let the client mull over their thoughts and words and that deafening silence is strong medicine.

    I must say that it is a learned art, though. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have sat there when it was quiet and wanted to say something, to just prompt the client or group, and say, “Come on, somebody say something.”

    However, there is also an art in knowing when enough silence has passed and to take the initiative and say the right thing. In counseling, that right thing is usually to reflect back on one of the last, important things the client said and ask a question related to that. I think this is a good thing for any of us to learn. It works great with conversations that have come to a standstill, especially with kids.

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