Frank Herbert’s Dune is among my all time favorite books. It’s had a profound impact on my life and my writing. I also read the other books Frank Herbert wrote for the Dune series, and I read one of the spinoff novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Those other books were… well, they didn’t have the same kind of impact.
Even so, there was one line from one of those other books that really struck a chord with me. I remember the line well, but I had to do a little digging to figure out which book it came from (it was Chapterhouse: Dune).
Silence is often the best thing to say.
A close friend recently told me some disturbing news. He’s going through some difficult stuff right now, and he wanted to talk about it.
Now I’ve been going through some difficult stuff myself lately. It would have been easy to steer the conversation toward my own problems. It also would have been easy to start handing out trite, simplistic advice. You know, the kind of advice that sounds wonderful in theory but doesn’t work so well in practice (see just about any self help book).
But no, I remembered those words from Frank Herbert: “Silence is often the best thing to say.” My friend wasn’t looking for advice, nor was he looking to get into a contest with me over whose problems are worse. He just needed to talk—to vent, really. What he needed from me was someone willing to listen. So I kept my mouth shut and listened.