Sit back and listen

Oct 4, 2011

Physicist and open-science advocate Michael Nielsen visited Duke today to give a public talk, Doing science in the open. His host, Paolo Mangiafico, allowed me to take Michael to lunch, so I invited a a host of Department of Medicine faculty, but in the end only Misha Angrist, PhD and Susan Spratt, MD (and see her Spratt’s Salads site) were able to join us. The conversation was mostly about genomics, electronic medical records and whether physicians should allow patients to friend them on Facebook (re: AMA social media guidelines).

After lunch, Michael and I walked through campus toward Perkins Library. He commented on how I’d let him and the others do much of the talking, and how I’d engaged later in the discussion with questions to each of the individuals around the table.

Earlier this summer, I participated in a two-day communications review at Brookhaven National Laboratory. I sat, listened, took a lot of notes. When I finally started talking in our final session, a fellow panelist remarked that it was like a dam bursting. I think he meant that I’d saved my insights and perspective and that he was glad I finally shared them.

So, yes, that’s my style. I sit back and listen. Usually, I’m thinking to myself that, damn, these are smart people and I should shut up and learn from them. But eventually, I speak up.

In last year’s epiphany essay, Thinking places, or I am before I am, I wrote that I’m a reader before I’m a writer. Similarly, I’ve realized that I am a listener before I am a speaker.

Anton Zuiker

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