There is a quote that some of us may have heard before, and it is a quote that is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. This is another of those timeless quotes that never seems to lose its relevance or significance. “Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.”
Let’s hit the pause button for a moment and allow that to sink in a little deeper, maybe even read that quote again. And as we think about it, can we reflect on our recent conversations and identify what we may find ourselves discussing most often?
Small minds discuss people. This is not saying that we shouldn’t discuss people. The context here is more about how we talk about people. We can have incredible conversations when we are talking about people because there are so many awesome people in this world who are doing fantastic and amazing things. The problems begin to manifest when we talk poorly about people, especially behind their back. This can happen out of habit, a bad habit. It’s one of those habits that as Tom Ziglar says when reflecting on habits says, “The fastest way to success is to replace a bad habit with a good habit.” And since the people in our lives are so important, why find ways or look for opportunities to speak poorly about them?
Average minds discuss events. There is certainly no shortage of events happening in the world today. It is almost impossible to have a conversation with anyone these days without discussing the meaningful events taking place, especially events that are happening in our communities. Opinions about any event can bring praise from some or possibly draw the ire of others. Again, healthy discussions about an event are not what is considered average, healthy conversations about events would probably fall into the “great minds” category.
Sometimes what separates the average mind from the great mind is found in our ability to move the discussion beyond an event to a conversation around the impact of that event.
Great minds discuss ideas. When we can start having positive conversations about people, and healthy dialogue about the impact of the events happening around us, we enter a new realm of thinking and discussion. We now begin to discuss possibilities and solutions. Not every idea is a good idea, however great minds discuss possibilities and solutions with others to help distill what is good and can be acted upon to solve a problem. Discussing ideas also helps us to avoid the blame game. It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game when we are only talking poorly about people or negatively about events, whereas healthy discussions around ideas keep us far away from the temptation to blame anything or anyone.
So, what are we talking about? More specifically what are you finding yourself discussing most often these days? A discussion could be in person, over the phone, or through the active posts and replies we are sharing through social media, email, or while we are texting.
If we do recognize that we could up our game when it comes to the discussions we are having, there is a trap that we should all try and avoid. That trap is convincing ourselves that it is OK to talk about someone or some event in a negative way with our closest friends. That is a slippery slope and it usually doesn’t end there. The encouragement here is to shift our thinking so that no matter what we are discussing; people, events, or ideas, they are all positive and constructive conversations and exchanges.
Now, how about you? What are you talking about these days? More importantly, how are you talking about people, events, and ideas? I would love to discuss all of your great insights, thoughts, possibilities and solutions at email@example.com. And when we can make the shift to discussing ideas that bring resolution and solve problems, it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of Tramazing.com, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.
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