This is the second post in a series about living the virtuous life like Benjamin Franklin. We’re taking his life and applying it to marriage and relationships.

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

There is definitely a time and place for the right words, just as there is for silence.
It takes quite a bit of wisdom and control to know what to say and more importantly, when to say it. Often times, when faced with a situation that makes us uncomfortable, the mouth opens and the words mindlessly fly.
Learning how to simply be quite and listen to another person is what Ben was encouraging with this virtue – then knowing when to offer the right words.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. ~ Mark Twain

Times have changed since Ben was around, but this is no reason for proper etiquette to disappear. What follows are a couple of areas where you can apply the virtue of silence and likely make your world a better place.

Daily Interactions

With the pace of today’s schedules, many people go throughout the day experiencing a chronic level of stress. Coupled with this is the daily annoyances and mishaps that occur as you go through your normal day.
These frustrations are often taken out on others, who have little to no influence on the stress in your life. For example, you’ve had a rough day, the check out clerk makes a minor oversight and rings up one of your items twice, and you unload your entire day’s frustration on them.
1. Don’t take out your frustrations on those not involved or at fault for your problems.
The old saying is: you’ve had a bad day and you come home and kick the dog. The same thing occurs when you take out your anger on those not at fault for your problems. Yelling at the help line operator when your computer crashed. Erupting at the person at the airline ticket counter because your plane is late. Save your indignation for those directly involved in your problems, especially when that person is you.
2. Don’t talk on your cell phone while interacting with someone else.
Some people will talk on the phone all the time, everywhere. While standing in line to check out, while checking out and paying for their items, while in the middle of a conversation with others. As a general rule, while interacting with someone face to face, don’t be so rude as to carry on another conversation on the phone as if the flesh and blood person isn’t there.
3. Slow down and listen.

Do not speak unless you can improve the silence.

Frankly, there are many times when it’s better to say nothing. One of the best ways to demonstrate respect for another human being is to honor them by listening to what they have to say. Slow down and connect with those around you. Make your meals last longer by eating slower and having a conversation with others. Take time to watch the sunset. Just sit with your spouse, no need to say a word.

Cell Phones

1. Avoid answering your phone during mealtimes with family.
There are times when this may not be entirely possible, but many times, you can call the person later. When you’re enjoying a meal with your spouse, or family, talk with them. If you must briefly talk on the phone, go to another room. The point is, when you’re with people important to you, be with them, not off in another world.
2. Don’t answer your phone while talking to anyone in person.
This has already been stated but needs to be said again. Whenever you’re talking to an actual human being, talk with the actual human being. Let you phone calls go to voice mail. Show respect to the person you’re talking to by staying engaged with them.
If you must answer the phone, and this is more rare than you think as there truly are fewer emergencies than you think, politely disengage from the person and answer the phone elsewhere.
3. Keep your phone on silent or vibrate when quiet is expected.
There’s nothing more disruptive to a quiet atmosphere than the latest ring tone of your phone. When you are in an environment that expects a certain atmosphere, movies, church services, weddings, funerals, libraries, museums, etc. be sure you phone’s ringer is off.
There are many things that disrupt the silence in our world. By being aware of your role in these disruptions and working to lessen them, those around you and within your family will reap the benefits.

Photo courtesy Mercedes.. Life as I picture it

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