it’s good to be a little deaf

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once shared a great piece of advice that came from her savvy mother-in-law on her wedding day: “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.” She continued, “I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of marital partnership. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court.”

Notorious RBG — as she is dearly called — went on to say, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” 

This reminds me of the popular quote that is usually attributed to Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Comments are powerless without your reaction, and as Ginsburg says, rather than reacting to them, it’s best to “tune them out”.

When you take the silent route, it doesn’t mean you’re okay with what has been just said, but it simply means you’re choosing strength over impulse. Sometimes, not saying anything says everything. 

Reacting is easy and anyone (read any idiot) can do it, but remaining quiet is hard. It requires wisdom and strength. Silence communicates substance and maturity.

Silence is the way of those who are grounded and have a good hold on themselves. It’s about being someone who cannot be rattled, someone who controls their emotions and impulses, rather than being controlled by them. 

As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on—it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”