On great minds and great men
Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
I used to like that quote because it was often effective in stroking my ego.
My natural inclination has always been to debate ideas, to devalue stories, and to detest gossip. Oh, what a great mind I must be! Yet what disposition of curiosity is actually revealed here? Apparently, I’m highly interested in abstract thinking, less interested in concrete events, and least interested in individual people.
However, can I be a great person without being particularly curious about people (as opposed to humans in general)? Dale Carnegie devoted an entire chapter of How to Win Friends an Influence People to his key advice that one should take a genuine interest in others:
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
This, of course, requires me to talk to people about people, especially themselves, and to resist the temptation to bombard them with all the “great ideas” I have, which (if signaling theory is true) I want to discuss not to solve problems anyway, but primarily to get other people interested in me. I want others to like me, so I signal the greatness of my mind by discussing ideas rather than people. The important question, however, is whether that makes me the most effective version of myself. Naturally, the answer will vary with the social environment I find myself in.
If you have no autistic neuron in your brain, you might feel like I’m taking too literally the initial quote, which seems to relate small minds to gossip rather than curiosity about others. But is there no dispositional correlation between gossiping and taking an interest in others? Both are vital for social bonding and I tend to have trouble distinguishing between the two, at least on a non-moral level.
- How to Establish Trust: Be Consistent and Aware of People’s View of Humanity
- Are You Using Your Strengths? (A Six-Week Plan to Improve Your Character)