Updated: May 24
Considerations for Speaking
In addition to body language and eye contact, speaking is how we communicate with other people. How we speak with another person is perhaps the single most important factor in determining the quality of the relationship, both in that moment and in an ongoing way. Given that this is so, it is really important to bring awareness to our speech.
The Buddha suggested five things to consider before we speak. Keeping these five areas in mind will go a long way toward supporting our speech to be a positive contribution to our relationships. These considerations include speaking kindly, speaking with an intention of good will, speaking at the correct time, speaking what will be helpful or beneficial, and speaking what is factual or true. While one or more of these considerations may be present, speech is only considered right or wise speech if all five all present.
Speaking kindly means that one’s words are gentle, agreeable, and easy to hear. Even if what we need to say to someone is a difficult truth, it can be said in a way that the person will most likely be able to take in. This area of consideration includes avoiding speaking in a way that is rough, gruff and peppered with swear words. Energetically speaking with this consideration in mind is smooth and light.
Speaking with the intention of good will means precisely that. Your words are born from an intention of good will and the wish is that they be helpful, uplifting, supportive, etc.
Speaking at the correct time is really an awareness practice. OK, yes, it’s true, and born of good will, but is it the right time? Here we pay attention to who else is present beside the person we wish to speak with. Also, as best we can, we get a sense of whether it’s the right or best time for the person we wish to speak with. So, our attention isn’t so much with ourselves and what we want to say and being heard, but outwards to the other person and the situation at hand.
Speaking what will be helpful or beneficial is an interesting practice. We have to get outside ourselves to consider this. We may think that what we have to say is important. And it may be… to us. But what about the person, people or situation we are in? Is what we are about to say going to add anything of substance to a conversation or situation. Or, are we just speaking to be heard? This aspect of speech in relationship is endlessly interesting to explore.
True or factual means just that. If it’s not, we don’t say it. If it is, then we look to see whether or not the other four considerations are present.