It Helps To Be A Little Deaf

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was given a little piece of advice on her wedding day by her mother in law: “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.” Ginsburg would say she applied it to her job too: “I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

The Stoics were all about this. There is a story of Cato, who was struck by someone in an argument in the Roman baths. The man was forced to apologize when it was explained to him what an important person he had just punched. Cato’s response? “I don’t remember being hit.” He was practicing not just deafness, but forgetfulness—even as his face was probably still stinging from the blow.

That’s the point though: You can go around in this life looking out for every insult and snide comment. You can hang onto every time you’ve been wronged and investigate every case of possible bad faith. Or you can tune it out, be a little deaf to it and let things go. Not stupidly of course, not completely or utterly forgetful, but just enough that you can get along with people and function above the fray and the muck and the things that catch other people up. Just enough that you don’t go around angry all the time.