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Book Excerpts: "STFU," On the ability to keep your mouth shut


Henry Holt & Co

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Author Dan Lyons’ new book, “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World” (Henry Holt), calls for less talking and more listening.

Read a section below, and Don’t miss Dan Lyons on “CBS Sunday Morning” March 19!

“STFU: The power of keeping your mouth shut in an endlessly noisy world” by Dan Lyons

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My daughter was terrible. He had a paper due for his English class in two days and had nothing to say about these poems. He was going to get a zero on the assignment, fail the class, ruin his GPA, and not go to college.

He was sixteen, a junior in high school. I wanted to fix the problem for him. I wanted to tell him how to do the assignment. This is what I always did in the past. And guess what? It didn’t work. The more I tried to help, the more annoyed she became.

So, this time I tried something different: I sat there and STFU. I told myself just listen to him and trust that he will figure it out on his own. It was excruciating. He was caught in a wheel of anxiety, and the more he talked, the worse it got. The overtalker in me was dying to be let out of his cage. But I kept my resolve.

Finally, my daughter noticed that I wasn’t talking and said, “What are you doing? Why are you sitting?”

“I’m listening,” I said.

“You’re not listening. You’re looking at your phone.”

“I don’t,” I said, and pointed to my phone, which I had placed on the table, out of reach.

“You’re ignoring me.”

“If I wanted to ignore you, I’d leave the room.”

“Well, you’re not helping me, so I guess you don’t care,” she said.

“I know you feel bad,” I said.

“Yeah, no ***,” she said.

She smiled. I did too.

Gradually he calmed down. The wheel of anxiety that had been spooled began to slow. And then he started talking about the real problem, which was not the English paper. The real problem was that he was sixteen and adulthood was speeding his way and that, like most kids his age, he was afraid he wasn’t ready for. He’s about to take the SATs and apply to colleges. He was afraid – not only that he wouldn’t get into college but that he wouldn’t manage it once there.

Just beyond that horizon looms the great unknown of adulthood, and it’s a bit terrifying. You’ve spent your entire childhood saying you can’t wait to grow up and strike out on your own, but then you find yourself standing on the doorstep—and, suddenly, you’re not so sure, but it’s too late. Ready or not, you can’t go back. And no one is ready.

These things I couldn’t fix, but she didn’t want me to fix them He just needed to be reassured that it was okay to be afraid and that whatever life had in store for him, he could handle it and most importantly, he didn’t have to face it alone.

Excerpted from “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noise World” by Dan Lyons. Copyright © 2023 by Dan Lyons. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Co. All rights reserved

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“STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World” by Dan Lyons (Hardcover)

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