When I was at secondary school, my headmaster – a very intelligent man and nice guy, to boot – made a interesting observation which has remained with me until today. He said that if you want to find the most intelligent person in a meeting, the person who says the most useful things, you shouldn’t look for the person who talks the loudest or the longest – instead you should look for the person who speaks rarely but in doing so alters the direction of the conversation.
It sounds like a very trite and obvious, but it’s easy to forget. During recent workshops in the neuroscience course I’m doing, I’ve been reminded of it – there are some people who speak loudly and often, but only seem to make the same point over and over again. Others will say only one or two things for hours, but when they do, they open up a whole new thread of debate.