Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Words, words, words, all I've got is words

Curious experience today. I attended a meeting called by some academic researchers who are looking into a field in which we’re active – patient level costing for healthcare. They’d set up a workshop to which they’d invited several software suppliers, i.e. competitors. We all chatted away happily in an atmosphere that most friendly – and funnily enough, it seemed to me to be genuinely so: after all, we may be competitors, but we’ve also been dealing with the same issues for a long time which creates a bond, and in any case we may well find ourselves working together at some time in the future, so why stir up any animosity today?

On the other hand, we were all obviously being a little careful about anything we regarded as at all sensitive. Yesterday, I mentioned in a meeting within the company that I was a little apprehensive of today’s discussion and of the need to keep a close guard on my tongue. One of my colleagues laughed and told me:

‘You’ll be fine… I’ve never known anyone with such an ability to talk for so long without…’ There was a pause while he searched for his words, ‘…without giving anything away,’ he concluded, avoiding the more obvious, ‘without actually saying anything.

If he had said it, he would certainly not have been the first to express that view. Some years ago, on a trip to France, a friend of ours decided to practice her own French by commenting on an aspect of mine: ‘he talks a lot,’ she said, ‘but never says anything’ (‘il parle beaucoup mais ne dit jamais rien’).

Neither my colleague yesterday nor my friend all those years ago was trying to give any offence, and I took none. If anything, I was actually quite pleased at the comment yesterday, as I felt it reflected well on my capacity to be discreet. On the other hand, it’s a little strange to feel flattered by what actually amounts to an accusation of vacuity.

Oh, well, I suppose one should take what pleasure one can from whatever compliments one can get, wherever one can get them. However double-edged they may be.

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

That's weird you should get that kind of comment - I've never had anyone say anything like that to me!