The more public your speech is, the more diluted.

Sure, everyone wants their message to have reach. But top-layer, completely public messaging has almost no depth. It mixes with too much noise, and it becomes too generic to anyone who hears it. And the people who do latch on are often the ones you’d least like to.

There used to be this concept called a salon, where a host would gather together a curated group of people whose intellect the host respected. The group would then discuss particular topics; not for a specific aim, but because conversation is good. It’s a good way to increase knowledge – if the conversation is fruitful. Shouting into the “public void” is rarely so.

We still want to discuss things, as people. The problem is that we have mostly limited ourselves to two possible forums: the “public square,” which is a pretty terrible place to have fruitful intellectual discussions, and a variety of manufactured echo chambers into which we sort ourselves.

We very rarely join a group because the people are smart. We join a group because they already agree with us. The composition of the intellects of the group doesn’t matter, because we’ve already assumed “agree with me” equals “smart.” So if we want to have a real conversation, our choices are “shouting match” or “lockstep chorus.” Great.

It’s absolutely worth it to figure out how smart someone is before you know if they disagree with any of your substantial views. Once you know someone is smart, hang onto that – respect that. Invite that person to talk, respectfully, and let those conversations be fruitful. Engage in good faith, keep your emotions cool, and express your respect and gratitude for the other person for doing the same. Then do it again. Do it over and over, in fact. And along the way, invite others.

Viva la salon!

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