“Think before you speak.” It’s a maxim that’s been drilled into most of our heads since childhood, so why is it so difficult to actually put into action? I’ll admit, my natural tendency is to say what pops into my head first, but as I get older, I’m realizing how crucial it is to choose my words carefully. I think part of my wake-up call happened when I became a mom, since young kids interpret our words literally and often feel their weight in a way that we more easily brush off as adults. The other day, Phoebe was behaving uncharacteristically badly, and I made an exasperated remark that she wasn’t acting like my sweet little girl. Her face crumpled as big tears ran down her face, and she said between sobs, “But I am still your little girl!” It broke my heart to realize that my words had made her feel that my love was conditional, even if that wasn’t my intention.
So whether we’re communicating with our family, friends, or total strangers, how can we make sure that we’re using our words for good? I recently heard a quote (sometimes credited to Buddha, though seems like it’s been used by many wise teachers through the centuries) that provides a useful checklist we can go through when we’re considering what to say and — just as powerful — how to say it. By the way, these work when deciding what to post on social media, too. Keep scrolling for the four questions, and I’d love to hear in the comments if you guys have any tips for thinking before you speak!