Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Gift of Quiet.

I've written about this before, but I think it bears repeating. Especially since I just read that a remake of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is being planned with Gary Oldman as the star.

I read a review of Oldman's forerunner in the role, Alec Guinness, and what struck me was a sentence that said Guinness' Smiley "possessed the gift of quiet."

The gift of quiet.

How much better agency life would be if more people had the confidence to be quiet. To speak only when they 1) added to the conversation; 2) knew what they were talking about; 3) had all the details laid before them.

Most meetings in agencies (with clients or without) are dick-swinging contests. Who can speak first, loudest, longest. Not who can say what needs to be said. With brevity and clarity.

I've worked for a few people over the years who had the gift of quiet.

But most agencies are full of "summer soldiers."

People who aren't there when the fighting and rigor are being worked.

They come in at the last minute and compensate for their shortage of involvement with a surfeit of bluster.

As one of my ex-bosses, one with the gift of quiet, used to bewail "people with a titanic ego and a minnow in the engine room."

The only way to have the gift of quiet is to have the confidence to listen.


bob hoffman said...


You have touched on a subject about which I am a complete bore.

"Tinker, Tailor..." is my favorite movie of all time. I break out this 6-hour masterpiece every holiday season and treat myself to a week-long spyfest. This has been going on for over 25 years.

I'm afraid the reviewer you quote has been doing a little poaching from the movie. In the movie, the mole (no names in case you haven't seen it) describes Jim Prideaux, the man he betrays, as having "that deep quiet that commands."

If you haven't seen this brilliant movie, it is available on DVD from the PBS website.

george tannenbaum said...

Well, I got the line from a review in The New York Times from 1981 of "Smiley's People" by Michael Billington, London theater critic for The Guardian. So, I was wrong but you can't really blame me.

And my point, as always, remains.

george tannenbaum said...

Bob, BTW, my wife and I recently watched both Tinker, Tailor and Smiley.

We are more than giant fans. We are room-sized air conditioners.

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