The night before my engagement, I had the pleasure of attending Capicu’s Anniversary Show featuring the legendary Felipe Luciano. Anyone who’s read this blog for longer than a few months know how much I admire the former first Chairman of the Young Lords Party and member of the select Last Poets. He was probably my first Afro-Latino influence and the first speech he gave to the captive audience at Syracuse University ten years ago still resonates with me to this day. Today, he still finds wedges of time in his schedule to come down and speak to a youth sorely in need of his wisdom.
For the better part of an hour, he interspersed his rooted poetry with ghetto homilies, speaking clearly to the captive audience hoping to understand. Frankly, Felipe is an aberration of sorts, if only because of how effective a speaker he is, rarely needing to tell others his emotions in order to emote. He rarely laughed at his own jokes and kept his composure during his most exasperating pieces. Every word he spoke felt important, and yet, it was how he felt like he was listening that made the most sense.
What most of us don’t get about talking in general is not just about how much you say; it’s mainly about what you say. The best conversationalists I know learn to balance what they say with what the other person is saying, even when they’re in complete disagreement. They don’t squash conversation by pushing their point across and talk until they’ve exhausted all the possible thoughts around the subject; they literally play it by ear. The best writers write with a sequence of events that arise from a logic that makes people believe they’re listening to every thought you thought you were thinking throughout the essay.
People who read my 1,000-word articles here assume I’m really talkative in person. Quite the contrary, in group settings, I seldom talk unless absolutely prompted. I listen a lot (sometimes, more than I should). But the same way I listen, I’m also scribbling mental notes, getting a feel for the person(s) in front of me, trying to understand where they’re coming from, even if I completely disagree with them. Once I speak, then, I’m hoping to make the best point possible, even if it’s just a quick joke or accentuating someone else’s point.
We always say “It’s the things we don’t say that mean more than what we do say.” We can use that to our advantage to learn more, see more, be more.