Talk when you have something to say

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Talk when you have something to say

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Irish writer Jonathan Swift made a list of 16 things not to do when he became old. It’s titled “Resolutions: When I Come to be Old.” The first pledge was not to marry a young woman. He wanted to prevent troubles associated with young woman in his old days. This resolution may apply to Rupert Murdoch or George Soros, but it actually has nothing to do with me.

What caught my attention more were the resolutions that emphasize prudence in speech. Some such resolutions were “Not to tell the same story over and over to the same people,” “Not to be too free of advice nor trouble any but those that desire it” and “Not to talk too much, nor of myself.” In different ways, he repeatedly pledged not to bother other people with unnecessary and unwanted conversations just because he was old.

According to American writer Dottie Billington, author of “Life Is an Attitude: How to Grow Forever Better,” you are evidently old if you prefer talking over listening. When you’re not curious about different opinions and would rather start an argument than listen to people, you’re getting old. And if you keep saying “Been there, done that,” then you cannot even become a sympathetic senior citizen.

If you look around, you will certainly find that people are welcomed if they listen to others rather than voice their own opinions first. Those who sincerely try to understand other people instead of pretending to listen and have empathy for others are especially popular.

In Korean society, miscommunication between generations has caused problems. Parents and children are not on the same page, and those in their 20s and 30s complain that they cannot have conversations with those in their 50s and 60s. The older generations may feel displeased that the younger generations do not listen, but young people feel frustrated by the elderly, who like to give advice based on their own experiences rather than being open-minded.

This is a serious problem because the young get courage and consolation from older people who empathize with their frustrations. But if you want to tell your side of story without listening to others, a conversation cannot happen.

The actions of many individuals put together have a profound impact on our society, so it would be wise for many to take notice of this problem. As Plato once said, “Wise men talk because they have something to say - fools, because they have to say something.”

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Bae Myung-bok

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