The longer I do this “adult” thing, the more I realize how meaningful and affecting words are to others. I’m still quite far from being the type of friend, spouse, father, or leader I’d like to be or hope to become, but there are a few things I have learned over my years of surviving this life.
It’s really hard, if not impossible, to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. I mean, you might have plans to say something, but far too often the dialog in your head doesn’t match reality. But with enough practice and repetition you can build the habit of giving yourself the time to think and give an appropriate response.
Here are three things I always ask myself before I speak:
- Is it honest?
- Is it wise?
- Is it helpful?
Honest: Because if you’re answering from a place of hurt, or anger, or frustration, or fatigue, your words will not be honest. They won’t be founded on the purpose of a having a conversation, they’ll be skewed by our intent to vent, or unload, or win, or inflict pain; and there is no good outcome when your words aren’t honest.
Wise: Because measured, informed, and knowledgable words understand the impact and effect of their utterance. How might what you say be received and perceived? How could change or shape the conversation toward positive outcomes? Flippant words can create more confusion and resolution.
Helpful: Because a conversation isn’t about waiting for your turn to talk. It’s about listening, reacting, and responding — but you knew that. Not having an answer is just as helpful as providing advice or insight. What’s most helpful is dependent what is needed and wanted.
When you take into account all three of these questions before speaking or writing, you might see your conversations completely change.