Here is communication’s golden rule: Listen attentively and empathize! Listen first, without saying anything. Or, as Stephen R. Covey taught us in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Use the magic words, “Let me see if I understand,” and then repeat in your own words what the people you are interacting with have said. Make them feel that you feel what they feel. Make them feel that you understand them. And, then, only then, speak. And when you speak, talk about you, not about them. Describe the situation from your perspective, expressing your feelings, and avoiding, as much as possible, finding fault and criticizing them. Use the “I-message.” Start your phrases with “I,” not with “You.”
Here are nine guidelines to consider before speaking:
1 – Is it true? Is my speech based on facts, or not? Speech should be true.
2 – Is it helpful? Should I say something, or not? Will my words add anything of value, or will my silence be more helpful? Speech should be helpful.
3 – Is it inspiring? Do my words carry criticism or optimism? Speech should be optimistic and inspiring.
4 – Is it necessary? Do I speak words that are going to make situations and relationships better, or not? Speech should be helpful and beneficial.
5 – Is it kind? Do I speak gently or harshly? Do I speak with a kind heart, or with malice? Will my words hurt someone? Will my words make someone uncomfortable? Will my words arise the impulse in others to defend and attack? Will my words damage relationships? Speech should be kind, affectionate, and endearing.
6 – Is it just? Or unjust? Speech should be just.
7 – Is it peace-producing? Do I speak with my heart, expressing love and understanding and fostering good will, or do I let my ego speak, wanting to be right and win an argument? Do I want to be happy, or do I want to be right? In minor things, I’d rather be at peace than in conflict with others. Sometimes it makes more sense to surrender and let go of the need to prove that you are right. Sometimes the best response is a shoulder shrug accompanied by “Whatever.” Speech should be conducive to harmony.
8 – Is it well-spoken? Or poorly spoken? Am I explaining myself properly? Am I making myself understood? Speech should be well-spoken.
9 – Is it timely? Is this the right time to speak, or not? Speech should be spoken at the right time.
Many centuries ago, a certain Rev. Mr. Stewart advised three questions to be put to ourselves before speaking evil of any man:
“First, is it true? Second, is it kind? Third, is it necessary?”
If you feel the impulse to speak, always pause first, breathe, and ask yourself:
Is it true?
Is it helpful?
Is it inspiring?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Is it just?
Is it peace-producing?
Is it well-spoken?
Is it timely?
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– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”