There are three times to consider what we say. We can reflect before we speak (even for a split second), while we are speaking, and then afterwards.
Before we speak, there’s a moment’s opportunity to reflect. If we set the intention to think before we speak, one positive side effect might be that we are better able to hear what the other person is saying, or to check whether they are really listening. We CAN pause before speaking or responding. In that short time, we can mentally check where we’re going, and interrupt ourself before the wrong thing comes out of our mouth.
When in doubt, we can lean towards kindness and postpone saying anything difficult. Silence is also a viable option in most situations. The response “perhaps” can also suit many needs.
We also need to learn to listen to ourselves while we are speaking. The mind is quick enough to revise a planned statement on the fly. Hear the tone of voice that’s coming out. Is it what we intended? Remember that we are having an effect on others, even with our posture and attitude. Hear what words are chosen. We might discover something about our mood or intention. It’s also acceptable to just stop speaking if we don’t like what we’re hearing from ourselves.
Listen to yourself with an open mind and give a name (not out loud) to what you hear– is it kindness? Impatience? Boredom? Just by listening to yourself, you will come to know yourself better.
We also need to notice the effects of our speech. It’s not too late to learn something from our words after they’ve been released into the world. We can slow down and take the time to notice. Sometimes what we intended was clumsily presented or misinterpreted. Consider how it might be better phrased next time. Sometimes we might bring joy to someone else, or help them bring energy into the present. Notice how the good feeling generated is mutual, and affirm the intention to continue in this way.
So, to review, it is good to attend closely to our speech before speaking, while speaking, and after we have finished speaking.
Next up: three handy questions to know if what we’re saying could be called wise or helpful speech.