We live in an age where everyone has a potential audience. Anything you post online could potentially “go viral.” If you comment on a news story, you could find yourself arguing with someone across the world or making a new friend. As with anything, this could be a really positive, unifying thing or an ugly, dividing thing. Most often what I see is damaging. I am inspired to ask people to stop using speech as a weapon. Try cultivating right speech instead.
Words are energy. This energy is a reflection of what is inside you. Ugly words can only come from an ugly place. This incubates bitterness, strife, and disharmony and spreads it out into the world. You can’t release it and expect to be immune from its effects. If you want to have more balanced, happy surroundings stop using speech as a weapon. Instead cultivate right speech.
What is right speech? It is the mindful use of language that is reflects loving intentions, a nonjudgmental attitude, and respect for all beings. It’s used to further our understanding of others and ourselves and create connection.
How to Engage in Right Speech
Listen Mindfully. If you are not a good listener, you can’t be a good communicator. You have to have a sense of who is the person that you are speaking to. You have to have a sense of their story before you can initiate or respond in any meaningful way. Otherwise you are just talking at them. That is only effective if you are cultivating a dictatorial relationship. Listening creates intimacy and promotes relationship.
Speak the Truth. Do not tell lies or partial truths. Do not use words to obscure or distort meaning. Do not leave information out so as to create false impressions. When you speak the truth, you take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions. You respect that the other person has a right to decide what to do with that information. The door to intimacy opens because you allow your true, whole self to be seen. Lies promote feelings of shame and doubt that fracture you and cause parts of you to live in shadow. When you tell the truth, you stand in the light with your whole self.
Whenever we resist something we create stress. Nature knows what is truth and what is a lie. When you lie, you create stress because you are going against what is. If you think there is no consequence to lying, you’re not feeling what your body is saying. I assure you, it doesn’t like to be out of alignment with the truth. The more truthful you become, the more you feel the dissonance when you or someone else lies. It’s a powerful motivator to live in truth.
Speak with Loving Words. Some people say that lies are necessary to spare other people’s feelings. How you say a thing is as important as what you say. Truth delivered in soft, polite words is generally received with the respect that accompanies it. Think about who you are talking to. What sort of relationship do you want to build with that person? Are your word a reflection of that? Would you want to hear these words? If not, change them.
Speaking with loving words means that you can’t use rude, sarcastic, impolite, or abusive language. Being mad, feeling emotional, or kidding is not an excuse for not using loving words. This is not about whether or not you’re justified or if the other person deserves it. It’s about cultivating discipline and creating a peaceful existence. If each of us can only be relied upon to be peaceful when it suits us, then it’s not a real peace.
Using loving words doesn’t mean you have to gush with superlatives or use sweet nicknames. Be authentic to your own personality.
Speak Well of Others – or at least speak factually and nonjudgmentally. This is a reflection of that golden rule: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This means no idle talk, gossip, and certainly no slander. If you need to vent or repeat an unpleasant incident, speak about it factually. This will keep you from getting worked up and keep you from spewing hostile energy out into the atmosphere that will eventually circle back to you.
Stuff happens. As human beings, we tend to want to talk about it. That’s fine. It helps us to process it. Just be careful about how it comes out. Language has power.
Get Clear On What You Want to Say
If you aren’t sure what to say, stay silent until you are. This is a skill that takes time and mental discipline to master. If you take the time to develop it, you will confound those who want a quick response, but will delight those who prefer clear, meaningful dialog. It’s a rare gift.
Have you ever been in the company of someone who needs to talk and talk to get clear on what they think and feel? Okay, I admit that’s all of us at some time or another. I am not talking about the occasional blab fest, but talking all the time. When you talk all the time, you don’t get a chance to digest your words, their meaning, or the feeling behind them. So it’s actually a way of avoiding the truth. Stop. Sit with it. Let it percolate and fully form before you bring it out into the world. You may find that a lot of what is there dissipates before it makes it to the top.
Taking your time can also allow you to avoid saying hurtful things that don’t need to be said. It can give you space to figure out what you want so that you can ask for that. It can give you clarity, strengthen your resolve, and just be more mindful in your communication.
Can you recall a time when someone insulted you? Can you remember when someone said just the right thing to soothe you? Words can feed and sustain us or they can damage us. It’s not just something we say. It’s something we’ve all experienced. We all create the world we live in one thought, one deed at a time. You can make a positive difference by changing one thing, your speech. It’s pretty easy to do. Who knows? The life you change most may be your own.