Dr John Smith: When it’s best to say nothing

There are times when it is best to say nothing at all, says Dr John Smith
There are times when it is best to say nothing at all, says Dr John Smith
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I have nothing to say, I do not know how to respond, I do not have an opinion.

But we do don’t we? We all respond, we all have something to say and we do have opinions and we are tempted to respond very quickly, almost instantly. And that is where the problem lies.

In a very personal way I saw this working in Kettering General Hospital and Cransley Hospice.

Patients and their families talked about their illness, their symptoms and told their stories.

A rapid response was sometimes needed but most of the time a measured response was more appropriate.

A period of silence can be golden, it gives you time to think, even to go away and read or research.

The quick answer was often the wrong answer.

And so it is in society today. We have 24-hour news channels, all of which demand an immediate comment, a knee-jerk response that becomes news itself.

A child dies and someone is blamed, whether it is the police, a social worker, a doctor or a dog. It becomes part of the blame culture and, yes, there may be someone or some organisation at fault.

We do not want to make more casualties by starting a witch hunt. If something goes wrong the cause is often complex.

What a joy, then, in having a weekly local newspaper rather than a daily one. Non-news does not become news and nor does the instant comment.

If we have nothing to say that is saying something in itself.