The Empty Vessel Makes the Greatest Sound

I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart. But the saying is true: “The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.”

Shakespeare's Henry V, Act IV, Scene 4

A decade living in New York has conditioned me to have an instinctive skepticism of the loudest voice in the room. The loud people, the pushy people, the bullies, those who take up the most space, whether in the workplace or hooting on the sidewalks at night on the weekend – these are almost always also the people of least consequence, but its a fact that is tragically lost on most.

By contrast, the real person of consequence is actually often the quiet guy who takes up little space on the sidewalk, who is gracious and generous in his interactions, whether professional or as a stranger at the bar. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness,” said Al Capone, famously. The sentiment behind this admonition is something that has been reinforced by my firsthand experience here. The most intensely influential and successful people don’t stand out by making a lot of noise – they don’t need to and, in fact, drawing attention is often counterproductive to their interests and aims.

I have sometimes seen the gracious behavior of remarkable people met with rudeness, shortness or cruelty in a way that would embarrass the offending party had they more context. Sadly, we live in a confused world with bad precedents. We therefore need to be sure to always regard the few loud, pushy individuals who do find success as an aberration whose example we should not follow. We should, rather, be kind and gracious to anybody who is kind and gracious to us, and refrain from assumptions, because you never know who you might be talking to.

Nicholas

Hi! I'm Nicholas and I like building stuff. I'm software consultant working primarily with web technologies. I write here on related topics such as the Ruby on Rails web framework and DevOps solutions, in addition to travel and other matters of personal interest. I keep a homepage at nicholas.zaillian.com and am available for contract work (both remote and on-site depending on location. Send an email to hi@hackernotes.io).

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