The Daily Stoic for February 22nd. “What’s better left unsaid”.
“Cato practiced the kind of public speech capable of moving the masses, believing proper political philosophy takes care like any great city to maintain the warlike element. But he was never seen practicing in front of others, and no one ever heard him rehearse a speech. When he was told that people blamed him for his silence, he replied, ‘Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.’”
—PLUTARCH, CATO THE YOUNGER, 4
Have you ever said something and then immediately regretted it?
I certainly had. Quite a lot of times.
There are many reasons for this: anger, selfishness, lack of empathy…
In my case, most of the times it’s just a matter of ego. Because I am supposed to have an opinion, and tell it out loud so everybody knows how smart I am. No, concretely, to prove everybody that I am right.
That used to be me. These days, I am learning to listen more and speak less.
What’s Better Left Unsaid?
Take the time to make some sense of what you want to say, and cast your words away upon the waves
— Oasis, The Masterplan.
This is great for several different reasons. To begin with, you give others a chance to talk and explain themselves. A moment of silence from you can sometimes make the other end realize you want to listen to what they have to say. It’s a polite way of saying: “go ahead, I am listening to you”.
This gesture alone can make a difference in an argument. Sometimes we are so obsessed with being right, that we forget to let others express their views.
After all, the goal of a discussion is listening other points of view, and ideally getting to a common conclusion, not exchanging two cacophonous monologues.
Also, it allows you to actually listen to the other person. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an argument with someone just because I misunderstood that person. Had I listened before opening my mouth, we could have both avoided that situation.
Finally, it gives you time to make some sense of what you want to say, as the song goes. This is the best way to avoid regretting it later.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “what’s better left unsaid”, talks about the much needed ability to think before saying something. Sometimes, a moment of silence or reflection can stop and argument or make us understand something important we are missing.
I really love this Stoic teaching, and I am starting to practice it for quite some time now. I have to say it can make a difference to how you feel later.