House of the Dragon's lesson on dealing with critics
King Targaryen, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius on ignoring smack talk
“You could have his tongue for that” suggests whispers Otto Hightower (played by Rhys Ifans) into the ear of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). A knight had just approached his spectator’s box and made a crass remark from the arena floor about the matter of royal succession and who *should have* been made ruler of Westeros and Kings Landing.
Hightower is right. Targaryen could rise in indignation and great offense to order the tongue cut from the knight’s mouth. No one would stop him. But he doesn’t.
In his mind, the matter of royal succession is now closed. For the most part, he is correct. Targaryen is king. His wife at that moment was about to give birth to a son. All was as it should be. Now….if you watched the premiere of House of the Dragon on HBO, the spinoff series of Game of Thrones, you know the succession situation becomes a disaster just minutes later. But that is beside the point. Right now, sitting at the tournament and overseeing a jousting match between the kingdoms, all is well.
King Targaryen responds calmly to Hightower, “Tongues will not change the succession. Let them wag.”
This is great leadership. And it stood out immediately to me watching the series debut. Let them wag. Basically, let fools be fools. That’s what they do. You meanwhile, do the work, keep your head down and eyes focused on your duties. You don’t have to be moved by the chattering class and your critics.
Cicero, one of the last “great statesman” of the Roman Republic before it devolved into autocracy, was from a lower-class rural family and had a somewhat obnoxious love for flowery rhetoric. His colleagues in the Senate would whisper about him and talk smack. He wrote,
“Let other people worry over what they will say about you. They will say it in any case.”
Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way.
Tongues? Let them wag. Offense, temper, and retribution for foolishness from fools only make you appear as though you’re compensating. If you have nothing to prove, move forward unaffected.
This is the way.
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