Noise. There is plenty of it around, and sometimes it’s so loud, we can’t hear the important stuff that’s going on.
When you yell at someone, or even come on really strong, your message may be excellent. Unfortunately, it won’t be heard. Or even if it is heard, it will raise up such a storm of resistance that the audience won’t want to hear it.
My mother and father visited me in Cambridge shortly after I began there as a freshman undergraduate. The moment she came into my room, my mother went into high gear. “Why do you have the cups here; they should be there where you can reach them better. And the kettle—it should be here.” (She wasn’t just talking; she was moving things around with great energy.) “And coffee. Why don’t you have any coffee? What happens if someone comes to visit? You will have nothing to offer them. Get coffee!” And on and on. Shortly after she left the room for a minute, my father managed, with great skill, to lower the temperature. Had he not done so, I’d have done exactly the opposite of my mother’s instructions.
But the point is this: She was right! Everything she said was correct. I had placed the crockery awkwardly, I wasn’t equipped to welcome guests. But I couldn’t hear her message, or rather, I sure wasn’t going to even consider whether her message was right, because of the way it was delivered. Instead of thinking: Maybe she has a point, the only idea running through my mind was: “I’ll show you. Talking to me like that.”