Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing an op-ed in the New York Times called “Advice for Living” shared this wisdom:
Another often-asked question when I speak in public: “Do you have some good advice you might share with us?” Yes, I do. It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. “In every good marriage,” she counseled, “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.” I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
Justice Ginsberg is not saying that we should be fully deaf; neither is she denying the value of speaking up or of clearing the air to sustain healthy relationships. Instead, I hear her recommending: Presume goodwill, listen with curiosity and respect, be aware of your verbal and non-verbal responses, own your feelings, and ask for permission before offering feedback. And being “a little deaf” can be part of that equation – in marriage, in daily life, and in our forum meetings.