It’s no secret that good communication is the secret to happy relationships–at work and at home. In her book “Real Happiness at Work,” mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg devotes an entire chapter to mindful communication. Her three-pointed strategy is simple and effective: before you speak, consider whether or not your comment is true, useful, and kind.
Is it true?
How many times do we say things like “My boss never listens; seriously, literally every time I open my mouth, she interrupts!” or “I think my colleague is losing it. I sent him that document a month ago and he hasn’t even acknowledged it.” We conveniently fail to recall the few times our boss listened closely, or that our colleague emailed once or twice to say that he was overwhelmed and would get to the document as soon as possible. In non-work contexts, we may also be prone to untruths: “When I told my dad we couldn’t make it, he pretty much bit my head off!” Is it true? Or did he express surprise and disappointment? That is, is there a more accurate and truthful way to express what happened?
Is it useful?
If a new person is joining your team at work, is it useful to tell him that you feel your boss doesn’t listen? Is it useful to tell a colleague that another colleague seems to be behind on her work? If you and your partner already feel stressed out about not being able to attend a family function, it is useful to amplify stress by mentioning your dad’s reaction? Before you speak, ask yourself what would happen if you simply didn’t make that particular comment. Maybe it’s not useful.
Is it kind?
Maybe it’s true that your colleague is behind on her work, and maybe you think it’s useful for your other colleagues to know about it–but is it kind to say that you think she’s losing it? Maybe there a better way to express it. Maybe it’s true that your partner was twenty minutes late picking you up and maybe it would be useful for him to know that you were frustrated, but is there a kinder way of saying it than “Wow, nice of you to finally show up”?
What happens to your communication when you keep in mind “is it true, useful, and kind?”