Before You Speak, Consider This
By Corinne Impey
First off, a warning: I’m about to explore something I heard in a yoga class last week. For those of you I’ve practiced with, you know I’m inclined to attend the more…philosophical classes out there. But don’t worry, in the spirit of clear communication, I promise to keep this pragmatic.
I’ve been consumed lately with the idea of quality communication. We all need to contribute to conversations, respond to and engage with others on a daily basis and, in many cases, add our thoughts and opinions to what can at times feel like an endless stream of noise.
Sometimes our communication is through face-to-face conversations. Other times it’s jumping into an email thread that’s already 12 messages long, or adding a comment on a social media post. Whether written or spoken, it’s important to think about how to consistently add value – instead of volume – to these interactions.
Much to my surprise, I was recently presented with a framework for quality communication while I sat in a meditation at the start of a yoga class.
The instructor introduced a quote that is attributed to Sai Baba, an Indian guru and yogi. Full disclosure: a quick Google search will show that many people – from Buddha to Rumi to Sai Baba to Abraham Lincoln – have been attributed to some version of this quote.
Regardless, the idea goes something like this:
Before you speak, ask yourself:
- Is it kind? Are you being empathic? Are you taking into account the other person or people you’re communicating with? How is it going to be received? Even if it’s bad news, can you be kind?
- Is it necessary? Do you need to say it? How much of your pride/ego/stubbornness is at play?
- Is it true? Are you clearly communicating something that needs to be shared? Is it true – or true for you?
- Does it improve upon the silence? Is it insightful? Helpful? Informative? Or is it just noise?
I like to think of these four questions as a litmus test for quality communication. We can use them to challenge ourselves to be more deliberate and thoughtful in how and what we communicate.