Speak Ill of No Man

“Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody”
– Benjamin Franklin

It’s funny how they tell you about Franklin’s inventions in the physics classes, but ignore his timeless lessons. Ten years ago name Benjamin Franklin was mostly “a scientist” for me. After reading books of different topics I’ve come to realize that Franklin left much else behind him besides inventions or politics. I’ve yet to read his autobiography, but will do as soon as I’ll find a copy.

Nevertheless, there’s a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Speak ill of no man” that I’ve sort of taken as one of my personal guidelines. When practicing this guideline – saying nothing bad about others – I believe I’ve really enhanced my own life. This does not mean that I would blindly accept everything that others say or would always agree with others. This simply means that I won’t be saying “ill of no man” (nor woman). If I have something to criticize I can do that, without need to insult others. When there’s need to congratulate others, I do that.

I think there’s enough rants, complaints, people calling others “idiots”, insults in the world already. I don’t believe that much progress is made with angry insults or counter insults. They only generate tension and make people defensive. Instead, by showing good will towards others you’ll notice the others putting effort doing the same you as well. This kind of positive circle draws attention from negative insults (which has little or no productive value at all – at least nothing that couldn’t be done in other ways) and brings a new positive attitude that benefits everybody.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I highly recommend the autobiography. It will make you learn even more about the man, and there are many things you could apply to your life contained within the page.s

    Walter Isaacson’s book may be a good read, too – but probably start with the autobiography, it is much shorter than 800 pages! And if you’re anything like me, your pace of reading will accelerate the further along you get in the book, making it a fairly quick read.

    The copy I have has many excerpts from other writings of his, too, which are great to reference.

  2. Yes he said many classic things that are timeless and that are particularly relevent to the “new age positive thinking” crowd. I think some of his quotes are on the secret. they certainly crop up enough in the type of books I read and the inspirational emails that arrive e.g. quote of the day.

    It’s actually quite hard not to speak ill of people and takes practice. I’ve not mastered it yet. Another similar thing is to not complain about anything, try not complaining about *anything* for just one week, or even one day. Don’t complain about your health, the weather, this person, that event, this price, global warming, Iraq, whatever. Catch yourself about to complain and stop. Someone once said that when you complain to someone about something, they are not really interested, they are just waiting for their turn to complain about their thing! It’s just negative energy. Most news is negative, even articles written in newspapers/magasines by “witty” journalists are just sarcastic and negative and therefore of little use to me.

  3. Franklin’s list of accomplishments is nothing short of amazing and when one stops to wonder how he did it it is not hard to imagine that his list of virtues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin) really is effective.

    It’s a long read (over 800 pages), but the best researched and written Franklin biography is Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – I highly recommend it.


Comments are closed.