The quietness of the intelligent man

Kenko does well to stress the intelligent man’s quietness in company. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Some men, out of pride or vanity or ennui, profess to be experts in some esoteric subject while not a few others add to the dullness of the evening by having an opinion about everything passed around the table. They can speak at length about almost anything that, catching the breeze, is carried onto their tongues.

But the man who knows something yet holds his tongue is a rarity. He does not, says Kenko, spew his words about, hoping that they will land on anyone within earshot and this with a concussive bang. He sits still. The wrong man may press him on a certain subject with which he is fluent, may try to jostle and arouse him, only for him to yield with a gentle smile. Or the right man may invite him to speak, and, accepting the invitation with a touch of lightness, he may put the thought simply and directly, without needless dress.

Why, however, would he think to speak about what he already knows–since he already knows it–and why would he think to speak with false facility about what he does not know–since he is certain that he does not know it? Unless, of course, he and his companion were open to conversing about which they know not and then in an amiable spirit they might inquire. Yet this quiet form of speech is even rarer than the quietness of the intelligent man in company.

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