In his autobiography Ben Franklin shared that one of his virtues was silence. He included this description:
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
Think about how much time and energy you could save by avoiding trifling conversation and communicating just for the benefit of others or yourself.
I suppose this depends on how you define benefit.
How beneficial is it to comment on what someone shares for the sake of commenting? So you connect for an extra second or two. How much does that matter?
How much of your conversation will even be remembered the next day, let alone a week or a month later?
There’s an opportunity cost when we engage in trifling conversations. We may experience some connection, but it’s a shallow and forgettable form of connection, like being sprayed with a mist that evaporates when the conversation ends.
Do you have any conversations that you still recall years later because of how deep, meaningful, or special they were? How often do you have conversations that you still remember one year later? And how many just blur together in a sea of nothingness?
If you do a lot of online commentary, try to recall some of the most significant commenting you’ve engaged in from the past five years. How much of your communication really benefits others or yourself?
How much criticism have you offered to others that fell on deaf ears or that actually made a situation worse?
I encourage you to play around with your definition of trifling. See what happens if you raise the floor and refrain from making the bottom 25% of commentary that you’d previously considered okay.
What’s borderline trifling that you don’t actually need to share? What cheap laughs could you pass up, even when you have a witty remark on the tip of your tongue that you’re immensely proud of? What debates could you decline to get involved with?
This is an exercise in training up your self-control and self-discipline. When you learn to hold your tongue and be more selective in what you share, it can yield meaningful benefits, including improving your relationships and productivity. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to communicate nothing.
When you release some trifling conversation, you may feel a void in its place, and it may be a deeper void than you expected to see. The invitation is to fill that void with something rich and meaningful to you. If not for trifling conversations taking up space, where else could you invest your time and energy?