This month, I’ve heard two speakers talk about the three questions to ask before we open our mouths to tell someone ‘the truth’. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? I call them the three filters to put our words through before we speak them.
Certainly the three filters are important when speaking directly to a person, sending an email, SMS or other correspondence.
We’re often told about the importance of raising issues and having the courageous conversations, but sometimes the potential conversation doesn’t meet the criteria of the three filters. Many clients relay to me a conversation they ‘were too chicken to have’ and how they felt such a sense of failure at not drumming up the courage to speak up. As we discuss the situation further, my conclusion often is that the person actually applied the three filters, demonstrated sound professional judgement and the decision to not have the conversation was a good one.
But let’s look at another- and in my mind an even more important- context where our words can destroy, undermine and impact a person’s reputation (ours and the person in question): What we say when we speak ABOUT others. For a week, try this experiment: in the conversations you are part of and those you hear around you, how many of them include criticism, gossip and negative descriptions of a person? Are the words being spoken true, kind and necessary?
I’m not talking about the times we need to confide in someone about our frustrations with someone. We all need an outlet and an opportunity to vent and come up with constructive future actions. But the careless rolling of the eyes, or sarcastic word at the mention of someone’s name or even the indiscreet public sharing of a person’s character flaws or lapses in integrity may be very true but not necessary or kind.
When I am actively working on applying the three filters to what I say about other people and refuse to ‘chime in’ on a ‘feeding frenzy’ on someone, even if I fully agree with what is being said, I find I have more energy, more positive interactions with people and am invited to fewer and fewer gossip conversations because people know I’ll remain silent rather than add to the bonfire that is being created about someone.
Remember, if people do it with you, they’ll probably do it to you.
What has your experience been?