Time for the Mute Button

Posted on September 6, 2012


There are two types of drones.  One resembles over sized, goofy looking model airplanes – but  fitted with Hellfire missiles and operated by pilot technicians by remote control.  Deadly.

The other kind is that insufferable bore – the friend, relative, co-worker or acquaintance that is so in love with the sound of their own voice and so infused with the belief that only what they say is of importance, that they make a jackhammer seem demure by comparison.  Also deadly.  It is whence comes the scientific term – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

A funny and classic movie line that touches on this comes from one of my personal favorites, Mel Brooks.  Brooks’ character, Max Bialystock in ‘the Producers’ says, “Shut up, I’m having a rhetorical conversation!”

Politicians are a personality sub-set in which ‘drones’ are often found.  In their defense – it is true that one of the skill sets of a politico is the ability to speak volubly in front of an audience.  You can’t exactly be a shrinking Violet.

Yet, there are acceptable norms even in the world of politics.  People who sell for a living, will tell you that to be effective in promoting a good or service, the skill of listening is of equal or even greater importance than talking.  How else can you learn what is important to the person you’re speaking with than to listen to their thoughts and concerns?

Therapists are trained to do this.  I remember in my Psychology studies, the main model of counseling is called ‘non-directive’.   You don’t give advice to the client – at least not directly.  You mostly ask open ended questions and then listen.  It usually turns out that the patient himself has the answers to his inner conflict.

But some people have developed socially, to believe that they possess the important insight and wisdom and that to yield the floor to others not possessing their superior powers of ability and discernment, would be a disservice to everyone involved.

That would be those, like Hugo Chavez and Mayor Bloomberg, who are not only  convinced that they know better than you, but that by virtue of their natural superiority, they have not merely a responsibility to pontificate, but a right to do so.

One such individual is running for re-election to the office of President of the United States.  Bob Woodward has a new book ‘The Price of Politics’, coming out in a few days, that covers the inner dysfunction and confused management of the White House and its policy objectives in Obama’s first term.

One of the stories  leaked as a teaser, is about a phone call from the President to Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid and Pelosi were sitting in her office and Obama set up a conference call on the subject of the first stimulus bill.

Obama phoned in to deliver a “high-minded message,” Woodward writes.  Obama went on so long that Pelosi “reached over and pressed the mute button on her phone,” so they could continue to work without the president hearing that they weren’t paying attention.  To quote Larry the Cable Guy, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny”.

We have the opportunity to do the same thing that Nancy did.  That’s right, in just two months from now, you can put the drone in the White House on mute – indefinitely.

Silence is Golden.