Discuss Ideas

Weak minds discuss people

Average minds discuss events

Strong minds discuss ideas

-Socrates

This is a quote to live by. There are a multitude of conversations you have throughout the day. You cannot always discuss ideas. However, you can strive to take the conversation there.

Break down the first line. ‘Weak minds discuss people.’ What value do you gain by discussing others? Discussing another person without the intent to pivot the dialogue into something beneficial and positive leaves you with a narrow and baseless conversation. You are likely complaining, making fun, or striking a cord of jealousy within the chat centered around another person. Why are you letting someone rent real estate in your mind? Think of the value you gain by conducting a conversation based on the life of another person.

Let us be honest in how most conversations about people play out. They are typically filled with gossip and negativity. They may spread lies or slander someone. They are truly a waste of time, and seldom create a learning experience. Instead, the conversation intends to make you feel better about a situation, and develops a personal sense of pride to feed the ego. This is exactly what Socrates is referring to when he claims a weak mind discusses people.

It is, however, important to focus on the actions of others. The way you use this discussion is what makes the chat weak, or beneficial. Use the information in a good manner. For instance, chatting about the actions of another is OK if you recognize the action, and attempt to learn from it within your own life. You use the findings to create a plan or formulate an idea. Now, you have moved from a weak mind to a strong one. Remain mindful of the intention, however, for it is very easy to fall into the trap of a weak, lazy mind.

Break down the second line. ‘Average minds discuss events.’ We mistakenly feel wise when we discuss events with others. An average conversation about events does not typically further the dialogue beyond the facts at hand. Think of the typical event-driven conversation you have. They are usually with someone whose thinking is similar to yours, and the chat is more of a banter wrapped in complaints or highlights that play to your shared interests. This is most commonly done in a political conversation. You and the person you are chatting with collectively complain about the political party opposed to you both, or speak ill of the voters who disagree with your shared interests. The reason Socrates describes this conversation as average is you are not advancing the dialogue by creating or challenging ideas. You are both informed, which is better than our weak, aforementioned conversations gossiping about adversaries, but the focus on the current event is as far as it goes.

Finally, break down the last line. ‘Strong minds discuss ideas.’ Here, whether the chat is about a person or event, the best, and most beneficial use of your time is discussing ideas. Take the information on hand, and use it for good. Challenge yourself to create something based on what you already know. Critically think about the facts, and use them to your advantage by thinking of something different or previously not thought of. 

This is fun, different, and only difficult if you make it. How so? Next time you’re having a conversation, try to take it to this level. The level of critical thinking, and creating or challenging ideas. Gauge the interest of the person receiving the information. Is he acting on the information in a shared fashion, or is he providing poor feedback that regresses to weak or average conversation? If the person receiving your information doesn’t aid in a strong, idea-based chat, then the person is not a beneficial person to communicate with on this particular topic. That is OK.

But, what if that person is someone you have to chat with. That is fine. Find what makes that person chat about ideas, and going forward, do your best to center the conversation around that. Develop a mental list of who is best to communicate with about ideas based on events, people, or overall topics. These are the people you should call or text when a relevant situation occurs.

We can make all conversation valuable, and live by Socrates’ guide if we self-evaluate the chats we have with the people in our life. Grade the dialogue at its conclusion, and figure out how to improve upon it for next time. Align people with the things that they are best conversing about. Therefore, most of your conversation remains strong and equally beneficial. We should always be creating new ideas, challenging current ones, and discussing what to do with the newly-discovered information, whether this is about a person, event, or overall topic. Find the people in your life who are best at this based on a particular subject, and you will always be evolving. That is the way to go about life in a productive fashion.

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