Speak little; listen much

17 08 2014

I’ll be giving a talk at TEDxWellington next weekend.  I’m not allowed to reveal too much about what I’m going to say, but I will be spending some time talking about the IETF’s Requests for Comments, or RFC’s for short.

One of the most important RFC’s is RFC 760, which defined Internet Protocol, or IP for short – this is the really basic schematic for how Internet information packets are put together.  Section 3.2 contains the following lovely snippet, now referred to as “Postel’s Law”:

an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior

I was looking for a way of expressing this in plain English, and came across this lovely paragraph from 17th century theologian Francis Fenlon:

Speak little; listen much; think far more of understanding hearts and of adapting yourself to their needs than of saying clever things to them.  Show that you have an open mind, and let everyone see by experience that there is safety and consolation in opening his mind to you.  Avoid extreme severity, and reprove, where necessary, with caution and gentleness.  Never say more than is needed, but let whatever you say be said with entire frankness.  Let no one fear to be deceived by trusting you …  And correct yourself, for the sake of correcting others.

This came from Fenlon’s collection of Spritual Letters to Women, but is equally applicable to us moderns of any gender, especially software engineers.

HT: Stan







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