You are in the middle of a conversation with a friend at a local coffee shop. You haven’t seen each other in weeks, and you can’t wait to dish on the latest things happening. Or, you are in the middle of an argument with your significant other, and you just need to shut them up. It’s time for you to deliver the hammer and end this argument right here and right now. Or, you’re talking with your child, they need an adjustment to their attitude, and it is up to you to make this happen.
You have the opportunity to say something that will hit the mark, but before you speak, a bell goes off, and suddenly everything around you stops as if someone had paused a movie. You have the opportunity to look around, evaluate and think about what you are about to say and decide if it is a good idea to speak or to stay silent.
Of course, this never really happens…but what if it did? Those few moments would be a gift to you and the other person. When things get heated in a conversation, we often say things without thinking and, in turn, hurt the other person. When speaking with a friend or just an acquaintance, it is tempting to embellish or talk about something that has nothing to do with us. Intentional or not, you can do damage and then be left to try and pick up the pieces.
How can we avoid these pitfalls? How do you hold your tongue? How do you avoid unintendedly hurting the other person?
Ask Yourself 3 Questions
- Is it True?
Is what you are about to say true? Quite often, we stretch the truth, add a few details or say something that is just a bit more interesting than the truth. As long as you don’t have to take a lie detector test, who will know? Often we judge if something we are about to say will land better if we embellish it a bit. Here is your chance to stop and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say true?” If it is not, don’t say it. Simple. If it is true, then go to question #2.
- Is it Kind?
You may be about to impart some true information to the other person. The truth may be juicy and full of incredible details. The tea you are about to deliver is 100% accurate, and you can’t wait to spill it. However, when asking yourself, “Is it Kind?” If the answer is “no,” then you probably shouldn’t spill. Something may be accurate, but if it isn’t kind, pause and ask yourself if you should go on. Often the answer is no. However, if you answered yes to the first two questions, you need to move on to question #3.
- Is it Necessary?
This is the final question to ask yourself before you open your mouth and continue. Something may be true and kind but not necessary. The question to ask yourself is, “Is this my truth to tell?” Sometimes we have knowledge but don’t need to share it because it isn’t about us. Other times, we may know something to be true, but it is both unkind and unnecessary. That combination is a mistake waiting to happen. Delivering unkind and unnecessary truth is mean and often just tears someone down.
I often ask myself when speaking about another person if I would mind other people talking about me that way. Getting caught up in delivering gossip is tempting, but it is like consuming empty calories. It will do you no good and only harm you in the long run.
Practice asking yourself…
Is it True?
Is it Kind?
Is it Necessary?
Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern