Friday, November 18, 2022

Right Speech

Is anyone watching the new season of The Crown? While I’ve never been a Royal Family voyeur, this is simply excellent on so many levels. The cinematography, the characters, the storyline, the issues— all compelling and expertly presented.


In the last Episode, the Queen is about to give a speech acknowledging her Annus Horriblis— a difficult year fraught with family issues around divorce and other things. She’s advised not to (gasp!) share her feelings and is reminded of the three rules of public speaking:


1) Does it need saying?

2) Does it need saying now?

3) Does it need saying by me?


As someone both appreciated for speaking out when others don’t and accused of speaking too much, that’s a good list to keep in mind. I like to think that often what I choose to say at a meeting or a workshop often indeed needs saying, especially when it confers well-earned praise, challenges others to think deeper and see things from another angle and/or names the elephant in the room that others refuse to acknowledge. 


I like to think that I consider the timing of what I say and sometimes wisely save it for another moment when people have had time to mull something over or a later time when I can have a more private conversation with someone about it.


Finally, I have noted times when others have said exactly what needs to be said and I sometimes affirm it or piggyback on it to add another layer —and sometimes wisely notice that it has been said and therefore, I don’t need to say it. 


I know that I have also had many times when I failed to consider those three questions, but now that I have this checklist by my side, I believe I will find it useful.


Right Speech is one of the tenets of the Buddhist eightfold path and mostly is a reminder not to engage in wrong speech— abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech and from idle chatter. I would add that not saying what needs to be said, not saying it at the moment it needs to be said and not saying it because you’re waiting for someone else to say it is also a form of wrong speech, a silence that misses the occasion. Thus the courageous activitist speaks out at the right moment and says what needs to be said, the compassionate teacher remembers to praise the children in the moment when they make a breakthrough, the poet attends to the phrase that has risen up and crafts it on behalf of the world instead of answering the phone. 


There. I’ve said what I needed to say. Now. 

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