Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
This virtue is not about quietude or vowing to never speak again. The virtue of Silence is expressed in listening and sincereity of speech. Franklin’s intention was to reduce the amount of tie hespnt in “trifling” conversation so he had more time for matters of greater import to him.
…considering that in Conversation it was obtain’d rather by the Use of the Ears than of the Tongue, and therefore wishing to break a Habit I was getting into of Prattling, Punning and Joking, which only made me acceptable to trifling Company, I gave Silence the second Place. This, …, I expected would allow me more Time for attending to my Project and my Studies.
- Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, chapter IX
I suspect it was a desire to buld his own wealth and business more than spending time with family but he was ultimately a pragmatic person.
The idea of spending less time with useless conversation is good. Useless requiring some definition because, even as an introvert, I need some human interaction lest I go mad(der). I would define useless as gossip or derogatory conversation, both of which I tend to do. I tell myself I’m “venting” when someone or something has frustrated me; it is, at best, useless and, at wost, destructive to my relationships - both the people I’m venting about and those to whom I am venting. No one likes a consistently negative person
I extend this idea further to include spending the time in necessary conversation better, using Silence as a way to engage better. I manage a number of people at work which requires weekly 1:1 meetings. I tend to speak more than some of my team members and that isn’t helpful. We don’t have those meetings so I can talk at them but so they can keep me updated on their projects, successes, and challenges.
So, upon the previous week of Temperance, I do pile these edicts:
- Listen to understand in all interaction, not to respond.
- Speak less; do not seek to simply fill the silence.
- Do not derogate, gossip, or villify others for my own satisfaction.
I’m curious where I’ll fall with venting this week. venting is useful to a point and I’ve certainly crossed from off-gassing frustration into #3 above. I wonder if I can find the line more easily once the week is out when I am otherwise unable to let the frustration pass.