Speaking with purpose, not impulse

In classrooms, children are taught not to blurt. They learn to be concise when they speak, to stick to the point, to be kind and empathetic. To consider what impact their words will have on others. But do adults remember to use these skills as they grow up?

The same came be said for emails. In some ways, it’s easier to flick off an electronic email to a colleague or group of colleagues than to talk to them face to face. You can say what you really feel without seeing the reaction on their faces, you can , and you don’t even have to move away from your computer!

But this would be communicating from your impulses, not necessarily with purpose.

I’ve just completed an online course about this exact topic through dailyOM and here’s what I’ve learned about how to speak with purpose:

1. Consider what you are trying to achieve with your words. If you really just want to give a message to one person, don’t CC all staff. If only harm will come from you having uttered something, need anything really be said at all? Know your intention so that you can choose the best communication method to match it.

2. Make sure that your words serve others and not just yourself. If the only person who benefits from the correspondence is you, it could be argued that it’s not really necessary. If it’s simply to impart your will onto others, this benefits the ego and nothing else. If you wouldn’t like to be the person on the other end of your conversation, that gives you a sense of how the recipient of your words must be feeling.

3. Have you allowed enough time to pass in order to remove emotion from the issue? Words flung off amidst the heat of anger or disappointment or annoyance are commonly regretted. Especially when committed to writing, knee-jerk reactions are often clumsy and angst-riddled and easily misinterpreted. Sure, write that email. But then sleep on it and decide the next day, or the day after, if you really want to press “send”.

4. Think about whether your words are putting negative or positive energy out into the world. If it’s just a whinge without a plan to move forward, it’s dark and negative. All communication can be tweaked to include a way forward, a fix, a solution- thus injecting some positive energy into your interactions, not just negative.

5. Realise the power of words. We all know how it feels when we watch bad news on the tv, when we hear a message from the boss that you think is about you. When the driver of a neighbouring car mutters as they pass you, when someone in the queue behind you comments unfavourably about your actions. It’s instinct to take these words personally. Words can be weapons if not yielded with care and gentility.

6. Consider an alternative audience. Everyone gets a bit worked up every now and again. This is particularly true if emotion has been bottled up and unresolved for some time. And it’s crucial that these emotions are dealt with. But yelling at a spouse or penning a letter to your entire workplace may only fuel further dissatisfaction. Maybe you would be better served releasing your thoughts into a journal, or with a therapist, or onto paper that you later burn.

7. Decide if you want your words to divide or unite. Accusatory tones will create a rift that may never be fully mended. A thoughtful, compassionate vibe is much more likely to create change whilst also maintaining essential relationships. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/07/15/the-candles-you-surround-yourself-with/

As Don Miguel Ruiz reminds us, try to be impeccable with your word. Show integrity. Be discerning. Because some people will remember what you say. And everyone will remember how you’ve made them feel.

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