“Do not speak, unless it improves on silence.” Buddhist proverb
I spoke with someone recently who told me how ashamed they feel of how they speak about their work colleagues. “I’ve actually become a very angry, bitter person at work. I didn’t realise it until recently. I feel I haven’t reached my true potential, and as a result, I am lashing out at my colleagues. Or speaking badly about them behind their backs.”. We had a long discussion about the importance of mindful speech, and why we should all practice it.
Mindful speech means that you are aware whilst you are speaking – you have developed the capacity to truly observe what, and how, you are speaking.
If I am unaware of what is happening inside myself, I can speak unkindly. For instance, if I am angry, I could choose to speak unkindly to another person who may feel the full force of my anger.
Mindful speech is one of the most difficult areas to practise, because it is so easy to say something. I may say something not nice, however I may not understand why I say it.
Think of the occasions when we may lose ourselves in a conversation; we could start to gossip, speak uncontrollably, exaggerate a story, speak unkindly, spread rumours. This list is not exhaustive.
Speech creates worlds, so what kind of world do we want to create?
Ask yourself: ‘What is behind my words?’.
Hurtful, abusive, and harsh speech is unhelpful. Language is action, and once said, the words cannot be retracted.
Ask yourself: Why is there a need to speak?
If I have the need to share love and connect with someone else, this could be helpful to the world.
However, when we are suffering inside, we can easily speak from this place of suffering. We can use the emotion as we speak. If the other person listens, they may embrace the suffering; just as you may notice it as you are speaking to a person who is sharing their suffering with you. Sometimes it may feel overwhelming, as the person rants, or ‘dumps’ their emotions onto you.
Our intention when we are mindful is to use skilful speech – if you find you are angry, express that you are angry, however hold back the emotional charge. It is very different to dumping it on the other person. You may say “I was angry when you said…” rationally, and from an adult ego state, said completely without the emotional charge.
It is then much easier for the receiver to listen, and embrace what you have to say.
Mindful speech is to hold an emotion, such as feelings of hurt, without hurting another.
Mindful speech is loving and kind, observant of the best qualities within you.
The mindful person will notice the best qualities within you, and equally your suffering. They will have the insight.
The Buddha says even if it is truthful speech, we must be careful. It may not be the time to speak. Silence is powerful – digest what people say, and then respond.
“Silence is a source of great strength.” Lao Tzu
I hope this sparks some debate. I look forward to your comments.
Kay Buckby trains leaders and Managers to be the best they can be. Kay is a mindfulness practitioner, and uses techniques in the classroom to enable learners to be.
Talk to me about designing and delivering a session to your people using mindfulness meditation principles that can easily be incorporated into our daily working lives. Our courses help leaders, managers – and everyone – work mindfully.