Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at allRecently, while browsing through a convenience store looking for a sausage, I came across a book called “78 Ways to Have Cheerful Conversations That You Don’t Regret After You Turn Around,” written by a former television announcer for the Korean Broadcasting System. Rarely do I find myself stopping in front of a bookshelf at a convenience store, but this time I did, puzzled by the oddity of a self-help book written by someone who understands what disasters some conversations can be.
Maybe I was being too hopeful. The book turned out to be a compilation of suggested phrases to be used in professional situations (though the fact that the author chose 78 examples ― not 100 ― deserves some applause for innovation).
An example from the book: If you see your boss dressed in a new suit, you are supposed to say, “Is this a special occassion? You look stunning today.” You get the message.
One of my colleagues used to complain about how stupid she sometimes felt being forced to ask uninteresting questions purely because of the pressure to say something meaningful.
Or maybe it’s not even a matter of pressure. People just say too much. We say banal things that we don’t really mean, perhaps because silence could lead to whole new meanings. Silence could mean love. It could mean hate. It could mean hostility and jealousy. It could mean nothing, or everything.
Maybe I am getting back to the issue of sincerity. If we really care, we should at least make an effort to say things a little differently, in ways that are a little more innovative than “You must have a date tonight” or “You look stunning today.”
Actually, the book does tell you to use some variation. Instead of filling yourself with cliches, it says you should prepare for certain moments.
But instead of finding one book that tells me what to do, maybe what I should do from now on is memorize famous quotes by my favorite writers, and say them at random moments whenever I run out of things to say.
For instance, if someone in the office tells me that my skirt is shorter than usual, I’ll bring out Oscar Wilde’s “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.” If I find a rude waiter in a restaurant, I’ll try Abraham Lincoln’s “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea. But if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”
The reason I need to have something to say is that whenever I find silence unbearable, I tend to overeat. It’s a hard habit to break. As I write this, I am sweating from a terrible stomachache from a barbecue dinner at my friend’s party last night. After stuffing myself with a substantial amount of grilled pork, three shrimps, two sausages and a little bit of beef patty, mushrooms and marinated chicken, I am feeling sick. So for once, I will end in silence.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 2 squids, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of chilli pepper, 1/2 cup of ketchup, 2 teaspoons of red wine, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 cup of fish or chicken broth, butter (or olive oil), 1/4 lemon, a little salt and pepper.
1. Clean and wash the squids thoroughly.
2. Finely chop the garlic and onions, and add them to an oiled pan heated over a medium flame. Add the red pepper, ketchup, sugar and red wine.
3. Add the fish or chicken broth.
4. Add the bay leaves, lemon, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the flame.
5. After the sauce has cooled, use it to coat the squids, and grill.
by Park Soo-mee