Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Now There's an Idea

Many years ago I was on a plane with a co-worker and we were unintentionally overhearing a conversation going on behind us. The quality of the conversation must have really grated on Chuck’s nerves because he said to me, "There are three kinds of people. Some people talk about people, more intelligent people talk about things, and really smart people talk about ideas. Let’s talk about some ideas."

Ever since that business trip, I have been thinking about that observation of Chuck’s. I have listened in and participated in numberless conversations about people, things and ideas. However, I don’t know too many brilliant, world class thinkers so I can’t confirm the truth of the matter. I will say that if you examine your own conversation on a daily basis with your friends and co-workers, it’s generally about things. Places, cars, tasks undone, sports and so on, perhaps with a few ideas thrown in and a few snide remarks about people. Talking about ideas is a good way to begin an argument. Talking about people is a good way to hurt their feelings.

At times I have listened in to conversations and have been astonished how much people care about the lives of others. And I don’t mean that in a good way. They were not discussing the welfare of poor Africans, suffering Iraqis, or Palestinians and Israelis. They were chatting incessantly about the lives of their co-workers, mutual friends, relatives and celebrities. How do they know so much about the minutiae of other people’s lives?

And I have noticed when I am with certain people, we tend to elevate the quality of our conversation. I don’t mean I elevate the quality of their conversation, or they elevate the quality of my conversation, I mean we elevate the quality of each other’s conversation.

But after all these years, I never knew if that was an original observation by my highly intelligent co-worker, Chuck, or some great thought from some deep thinker like Sophocles or Shakespeare. So, I Googled the general theme and this is what I came up with:

Brilliant people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.—Anonymous

Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about other people.---Tobias S. Gibson

So I guess it was neither an original thought by Chuck, nor an old piece of wisdom from Shakespeare, but an anonymous thought from long ago. And then Tobias S. Gibson had to go and misquote Anonymous. And then there is this:

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.----Fran Lebowitz

Wouldn’t you like to sit down and have a glass of wine and a conversation with Fran Lebowitz?


Anonymous said...

Actually, I wouldn't mind having a glass of wine and a conversation with Fran Lebowitz!

Part of the joy of the "electronic conversations" on this blog is that they frequently discuss "ideas", which I love!

Keep on "talking"!


Peggy said...

...and really small people talk about other people while they are drinking wine.

North of Andorra said...

Stop talking about me!

Linda said...

I have always heard this quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. Maybe it wasn't original with her, but she is widely quoted as saying, "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people."

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I'd always heard this as anononymous, just tonight it was quoted to me in the name of a rabbi who said it was Eleanore Roosevelt. I think it's hard to know where these words of wisdom began, but important to try and live based on them. I like what you wrote and may link to it.

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