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A numeric diffusion

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Long after the event, an elderly friend of mine told me he had been trying to cultivate the habit of silently counting to ten, before responding to somebody, to help him find a less angular and more reasoned reply or retort, of course, that’s after having been made annoyed or offended. I was once that person, after meaning to be funny and friendly, firstly, I didn’t come across as such; and two, I was not privileged to a full count of ten. It resulted in a catastrophe.

Surely this method was not new and original. In fact, it has been postulated that the Roman Emperor Augustus from 27 BC to 14 AD, who was known for his bad temper, but also his encouragement of both the education and cultural enrichment of the populace, would mentally run through the alphabet in such heated situations.

Unsurprisingly, politicians are hopeless in this manner, or they choose never to pause and consider before giving an unprepared reply. So, in the UK for example, they tend to offer fixed party lines in robotic fashions. If probed towards more contentious areas, multiple and unrelated deflections ensue, until there’s no more point or time to go further, as in filibustering.

In contrast to this, there are well known people on social media, who consider their responses effectively, and take the time need to do so in unflustered ways. For example, Jordan Peterson, Elon Musk, Richard Dawkins, and Sadguru. I once saw Elon Musk pausing for around about 15 to 20 seconds before he answered a question. He wasn't in an argument as such, but was certainly being scrutinised, over what the interview viewed as a very counter intuitive behaviour on Elon’s part. Elon was completely calm, and it was an inspirational moment. Peterson is perhaps the more stressed. I think people might be keen to derail him, as he talks about many and broader subjects, which can attract a wider audience. Elon is more about cars and space rockets, and granted, many side-lines including energy; so, massive subjects, in fact.

If you do try to count to ten, whilst moderating a reply, you might find it's a long time, and silence can easily aggravate anxieties. Maybe try "1, 2, 3" first, then build on that. Who knows where it will take you? But it should be towards practise rather than hopes for quick results.

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