I remember a small sign hanging on my Dad’s office door many years ago when I was in primary school. It read, “The more you talk the more you’re likely to sin”. Being a bank manager then I think he was hoping that his staff would be clear about their ask before they entered his office.

I have applied that lesson several times in my life but being the extrovert, I am hasn’t helped sometimes. I have caught myself talking much when it was not necessary. Since getting on the fourth floor of life it has become imperative to listen more and talk less. I needed to reboot myself kabisa. Get back to the place of hearing and learning new stuff without thinking that I know it all.

That has not been easy especially being both a sanguine and Kenyan. We are experts at almost every topic that comes up. During elections the media houses overdose us with opinions from endless panels of experts who sound like they are saying the same thing at the end of the day. Sometimes I wonder if these so-called experts are the best in the areas they represent. Could there be other more knowledgeable (but not so loud) experts whom we should be listening to instead.

Sunny Bindra put it well in his Sunday Nation article last week. He said active listening is one of the core skills of leadership. We should strive to actively listen and go slow on actively talking. Some people find it much easier to keep quiet than others. I have had to consciously work on talking less and practice active listening. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m now even practicing speaking slower so that I can communicate better.

My editor Purey is one of the most silent people I know. Whenever we meet, I feel like I must push her to talk. She’s a lady of very few words. But when it comes to communicating in writing she is very articulate and profound. I’m still trying to write as well as her four years later. I think introverts (and quiet people in general) make for better writers because they marinate their thoughts well internally before dishing them out. It could also be because they are better observers and listeners.   Some of us serve our thoughts as they cook. This can lead to a disease my pals and I call Foot- in- mouth disease where your mouth puts you in a fix that you’ll regret.

One of my baby sharks came home with a poem that read, “Everything I needed to learn about life I learnt in kindergarten”. That proved true as I was writing this article. Many years back when I was in Sunday school, we would be told that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is so that we can listen twice as much as we spoke. Our teacher then would say this to silence the noisemakers like yours truly here.

Sadly, most of the problems we have in society are caused by poor leadership. A fish rots from the head and society would rot even faster if the head got there through lip service and not actual service to the people. We all know of people who sound so sharp and convincing that they could sell ice to an Eskimo. I fully support being able to speak well and convincingly. In fact, I have put a lot of effort to enhance my public speaking skills. But the picture is complete when the talking is followed by solid actions. And to carry out solid actions that will benefit our communities then listening to others is a key part of that success. And listening to others means we put our ears on duty more frequently and send our mouths on leave more often.

One benefit of maintaining shalap (slang here for keeping quiet) is you get to hear (and learn) people more. You also reduce significantly the chances of contracting the dreaded foot in mouth disease. I’m amazed at how our politicians never learn. Repeatedly they tell us that they were misquoted after their mouths got them in trouble. They even dispute recordings of themselves digging their own holes using their mouths.

I particularly like Sunny’s outlook in his article. “That great solutions demand the humility to pay attention and consult. This can be dismissed as weakness when it is actually strength. We must not confuse reflection with indecision. We should respect the quiet intelligence and the sober mind – and wait for the results”. May our leaders (and ourselves too) consider and apply this thinking.

There are times when I have spoken too soon about an issue then regretted it. I felt like I gave away power by talking instead of remaining silent. Keeping quiet sometimes leaves people guessing about your thoughts or plans. We risk shortchanging ourselves when we speak at the wrong time. An attack I sat through at a board meeting last year proved this fact right. Silence was my saving grace and I got to the end of that meeting wounded but having an upper hand. My attackers suffered the embarrassment that was meant for me because I didn’t react as they expected.

Learning to listen to the voice of others more and less to our own voice will lead to wisdom. And wisdom will guide us on when to speak and when to maintain shalap. I believe Martin Luther Jr alluded to this by saying, “When you are right you cannot be too radical. When you are wrong you cannot be too conservative.” When on the right let your actions speak louder. When in the wrong silence may not be your best ally. Speak out but with wisdom.

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4 thoughts on “Maintain Shalap.”

  1. MG says:

    Yes indeed. There’s even a Proverb for it
    Proverbs 10:19 NKJV
    In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. Solomon knew it years ago, yet we still don’t get it! 🤦🏾‍♀️

    • Linda Gitau says:

      This is so true. I’m also still struggling with learning to be quiet in the heat of the moment. But whatyou say is ttue Lucas, the very few times I’ve managed to be quiet have ptoved to be oh so satisfying. The attacker was left looking like a bully.

  2. Kamuru says:

    Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden.

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