Essay No. 69:
Give Every Man Thy Ear But Few Thy Voice: The maxim reflects a great measure of wisdom. A man should listen to the views of others attentively but not open his tongue unnecessarily. In a meeting of intellectuals, one should listen to what they say on matters of importance in order to enrich one’s knowledge and widen mental outlook.
One should have the capacity to assimilate new experiences and thoughts in oneself. In a company of the learned one should be silent to imbibe wisdom in one’s self by listening to the views of the knowledgeable. In other words, one should listen to others and avoid a verbose conversation, while sitting in the company of scholars and learned personalities.
The maxim highlights the importance of discrete language. Careless use of words can embarrass one’s position in the eyes of others. It can create a misunderstanding between friends. Once misunderstandings are created they grow over time. And many human tragedies take place as a result of the wrong use of words. Bad words can have the effect of estranging human relations. One should be, therefore, discrete in talking.
There is a proverb that it is better to be silent and be thought stupid than to speak and prove it’s true. One should thus avoid talking aimlessly to create a wrong, bad impression. Wisdom demands that one should exercise restraint on one’s tongue to escape the criticism of others. The following verse of Ahmad Fraz is illustrative of the garrulous nature of man:
ہم نہ ہوتے تو کسی اور کے چرچے ہوتے
خلقتِ شہر تو کہنے کو فسانے مانگے
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“if we were not the object of criticism, then somebody else would have been a target of ridicule. The public is in search of coining baseless stories to satisfy its garrulous nature.”
One should prefer silence to idle talk. People may form the wrong impression of someone who remains silent in a meeting. He may be dubbed as stupid. He/she should accept being called a stupid instead of talking loose in the company of people. If one feels there is room to differ from someone’s opinion, one should do it politely.
Diplomats are seasoned people who are given the training to speak precisely and to the point. They give precise, pithy answers to the questions of journalists. They are highly discreet in the selection of words. If they are entangled in difficult situations, they avoid giving reply to escape embarrassment. They have to safeguard the interests of their countries. A slight slip of the tongue on their part can do irreparable damage to the interests of their countries.