Tammy Flowers recently posted this quote on the Highland Matters Facebook group page that she moderates –
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. The quote although widely associated with Eleanor was actually made much earlier by the English historian Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862).
So I wondered, if I’m discussing ideas for people to use when coping with events in their lives, what does that make this blog? Hmmm. Maybe it’s a greater than average blog about small things. No. Maybe it’s an average blog about great events in the lives of small people. No. Perhaps it’s about ideas on how to deal with average things so that they remain small and don’t become too great in our lives. That’s getting closer.
The thing about Eleanor’s quote is that that we (people) are impacted in ways by the events that take place in our lives and the ideas that we have or ideas that others have about us. I get that there it is a higher level of thinking required to discuss ideas and abstractions and the ability to do that with more complex ideas does seem to demonstrate a higher level of intelligence (hence a greater mind); however, events happen all the time around us and to be oblivious to them and not react to them through discussion would seem abnormal, not average. As for discussing people, there certainly are things one should not do and most of them are hard to avoid for long when the discussion turns to discussing a specific person. It is a small mind indeed that allows prejudices, hate or judgements to color the discussion about a specific person. That is a pitfall that is as hard for many to avoid as a Michigan pothole.
So, perhaps the best thing to take from Eleanor’s quote is that if you can’t think of anything other than ideas or events to discuss you are better off keeping your mouth shut. We often associate the word gossip with discussions about other people and there are no good things to be said about gossip. One quote that I saw about it seemed to ring particularly true –
“Gossip is never fatal until it is denied. Gossip goes on about every human being alive and about all the dead that are alive enough to be remembered, and yet almost never does any harm until some defender makes a controversy. Gossip’s a nasty thing, but it’s sickly, and if people of good intentions will let it entirely alone, it will die, ninety-nine times out of a hundred.” ― Booth Tarkington, author – The Magnificent Ambersons
So, focus instead on thinking and discussing concepts and ideas or about the events of the day and how they might impact you. Talking about a fellow worker or someone in your family or, worse yet, someone that you don’t really even know is not only a waste of your time, it serves no good purpose. Passing on or engaging in discussions that might impact the reputation of someone else is just wrong and something that you would not want others to engage in about you.
Perhaps this final bit of advice that I found about gossiping might be a good guide –
“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” ― Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Make that choice today and be free. Have a great holiday weekend.