I have a mouth on me.
I use it a lot.
Not as much as I used to, and, I think, more effectively than I used to, but it is still quite a mouth. I like the sound of my voice. I like saying things people listen to, I like making people laugh. I like making myself laugh if no one else wants to.
I like to swear. Sometimes a lot. This can make people laugh, and this eggs me on because apparently I’m 12.
All of this can seem harmless, but the more we talk, the more we feed the ego, and the more we feed the ego, the more we suffer.
I have also learned that talking too much, especially if you are comfortable doing so, can be a form of theft. Looking back, I can see where I have stolen the spotlight or the attention from people, I have stolen the point they were going to make, or I have stolen a good time from them by making a joke at their expense.
As I said in a previous blog, I am working on this. I have come to believe that the more time one spends in silence, the happier and healthier one is. The more I learn to not say something, the better I feel about my day when I review it each night. The fewer jokes I make, the more coherent I feel as a person (I have a future blog planned on how I tend to use humor to keep people at arm’s length).
I am working to get in the habit of asking myself three things before I speak.
“Is this true?”
“Is this kind?”
“Is this necessary?”
These are not my questions – I think they may actually be part of one of the more misattributed quotes on the internet. Some list the origin as coming from Sai Baba, others a Victorian era poem. I often see it as originating with The Buddha. I have honestly considered starting a Tumblr just to document misattributed Buddha quotes. I think any vague/pithy quote that talks about kindness, compassion, meditation or peace is automatically attributed to him.
Anyway, by allowing these three questions to have a voice before speaking we can probably eliminate much of the damage our words do.
If something is true, we still have to ask ourselves if it is kind and necessary. A lot of harm is done by speaking on things that are not our business, or simply do not need to be said.
We may have something to say that seems kind, but is it true? This helps us avoid flattery and dishonesty. It may be kind but is it necessary? This forces us to ask ourselves just why we are saying it.
Is it necessary? This question speaks for itself. If something is true and kind, but not necessary, why are we saying it? What are our motives in speaking?
Together, these three questions create an interlocking framework that can help us reduce a lot of the harm our words do, and can cut out the number of words we say at all. It’s not fun sometimes, but it may be better for those around us.