Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?
One of the benefits of mindfulness is, to paraphrase Viktor Frankl, the space it creates between stimulus and response. In that space between, we find choice. Mindfulness then creates time for us to choose our response. (Over time, the practice of making that choice helps us to create new neural pathways, which then become our new default responses.) One such choice is the words we use, or more generally, what we give voice to.
There is an ethic within the mindfulness community that our inclination to speak should be filtered through three sieves. First, is what you are about to say true? Is it true, both superficially and viscerally? For example, if a colleague asks you for help, and you are not feeling inclined to give up your time to help, how do you respond from a place of truth? Do you say, “I would love to help you but I have a previous commitment?” No, because you would not “love” to help, nor do you have a previous commitment. Instead, you could say, “I have been extremely busy lately and am running myself ragged. I promised myself that I would get home from work at a reasonable hour tonight. Is there another time I can help you?”
Second, is what you are about to say kind? Does it come from your heart with compassion and a sense of warmth and connection, or is it a reflection of your ego and emanating from a place of hurt, anger, or just carelessness? If you hear two other co-workers sharing gossip about another person in your office, do you join in, or do you excuse yourself from the conversation? Likewise, if a child or someone who reports to you comes to you and admits that they made a mistake, can you be firm while staying kind in your response, or does your ego need to humiliate and put them down?
Finally, are the words you are about to utter necessary? Some of us fill up our lives with unnecessary chatter when often silence is what we and others need. When I return every year from my week at a silent meditation retreat, I notice that I am much less inclined to engage in chit-chat. I appreciate the quiet and only engage in conversation when necessary. I try to let my sense of peacefulness and ease speak for me instead of relying on words.
When mindfulness practice allows you to fully consider what and when to speak, you create a more truthful, kinder, and more meaningful world.
Can you notice your words this week and pay special attention to whether they are true, kind and necessary?
This post is a short excerpt from Edie Raphael's The Art of Being Present: Mindfulness Meditation for Work and Life. The full book (including 52 weeks of guided meditations) can be purchased here.
Credit: Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash