“Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak. Probably so we can think twice.” ― Bill Watterson
I have just completed an extended Mindfulness diploma and one of the sections of the programme really struck a chord with me. Many of the mindfulness programmes that I have come across talk about the self, both internal as well as external. The internal thoughts and feelings you have, as well as how you relate to those in the outside world and how you react to them. This was the first programme where there was a section on Mindful Speech.What on earth is that you might ask?
As well as listening mindful, we can also have the intention to speak in a mindful way. Just as the words, phrases and intonation of the words and phrases spoken to us can have an impact on us, so too can the words, phrases and intonation of the words and phrases we say to others mindlessly, hurt and offend others.
so if we are to bring to the way we speak, by expanding the way we use mindfulness in the way we currently think, there are a number of key aspects to the approach we need to take. Firstly, we need to absolutely be in active listening mode. Active listening is the process where by you listen to others and NOT, I repeat NOT, half way through or even sooner, you have a thought in your head on how to answer the person. I will follow up with an article on Active Listening as it is so important to both work and life.
Thich Nhat Hanh has expanded the wording of the precept of Mindfulness Speaking in a wonderful way:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Before you speak, instead, think of:
T – is it True? Are you speaking the truth and reflecting the truth in the answer you give? Can you feel in your heart, that you are being truthful. I always say, the “truth will out” and even if you try to hide something, your mannerisms, the way you sound, even the way you are sitting, standing, leaning or moving, will indicate truth or lies.
H – is it Helpful? Are the words and phrases you are using helpful to the person and situation you are facing?
I – Is it Inspiring? Do the words inspire positiveness and confidence and a sense of compassion?
N – Is it Necessary? One of my favorites. We, as humans can not stand silence, so we seek to fill silence with noise and sounds. Music, speech, clicking, tapping, we all do it. I have been practicing the silent response now for a while and find that rather than letting my thoughts run ahead and my speech follow, rather allow myself to pause, reflect and then respond.
K – Is is Kind? Are you saying things and discussing in a kind, compassionate and empathetic manner? Are you saying things in a warm manner, without judgement; without anger; without abruptness.
Mindfulness speaking takes time, practice and an honest appreciation that people might find it strange if you change overnight.
As always, I leave you with a quote….
“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” ― John Grisham