"avoid making noise"
By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach. ~Winston Churchill
What do all these sentences have in common?:
1."What a nice dress you are wearing!"
2. "I would never put my child to bed after 9.00"
3. "I'd love to come but I can't I have already arranged to meet friends."
4. "He's tight with money."
5. I'm so glad I went on the saturday - it wouldn't have been the same the day after.
6. I got my degree at Bocconi University.
Well....."translated" the meaning behind the facade of words, (may) indicate something different to what the apparently innocent exclamation is communicating. For example and in order - the meaning behind the above phrases could be;
1. I would look great in your dress!!!
2. I am a better mother than she is.
3.I don't want to meet up with you.
4.I'm a generous person, I want you to like me.
5. I am always right. I always make the right decisions.
6. I'm clever and important and probably smarter than you are.
Your homework this week is to observe yourself speaking. This in itself is quite some task. You have to consciously introduce a nanosecond of time (before, during or even after) which will give you enough "space" in which to take note. Once you have managed to take a step back and observe what actually comes out of your mouth, try to find the "hidden" meaning behind what you are saying. What is it exactly that you are trying to communicate? Why are you giving that person a compliment? (do you need approval?) why are you gossiping about your colleague? (are you hoping that by putting him in a bad light, you will shine brighter?). Once you find that there are certain "manipulative" verbal mechanisms you use try to think if there is a way of re-phrasing the statement so that what you are communicating is true (but not hurtful) - ie. "I'm sorry but I'd prefer not to come out tonight" - rather than a "Look-Good Lie". If the phrase is possibly hurtful (gossiping) think if the phrase is "disposable". Can you do without it? What will happen if you refrain from speaking badly about your colleague? (Well... for one people will start to trust you). How much of what you say during the day is a "silence filler"? How much of what you say is a way of gleaning praise or sympathy from someone? Focus your attention on the "hidden message" behind your speech and your tone of voice.
Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence. ~Spanish Proverb
One of the most wonderful memories I have of doing a summer yoga course in Tuscany with my yoga instructor Beatrice Calcagano was when we did a day of silence. Once you stay close to people in complete silence your realize how often speaking is used as a support, a kind of verbal security blanket. Take it away and at first it's a bit scary but then if feels calming, surprisingly natural and for me at least, incredibly liberating. At least for 24 hours it did!
The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ~Dorothy Nevill
For a week you could try to use the following as a rule for how you speak;
“If you know anything that is hurtful or untrue, do not say it.
If you know anything that is helpful but untrue, do not say it. If you know anything that is hurtful but true, do not say it. If you know anything that is helpful and true, find the right time to say it.” Buddha
In yogic terms this homework subject coincides with one of the ten "yoga commandments" -which include five "yama" (Do's) and five Niyama ("don'ts) according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (A foundational text of yoga, a work of indian philosophy and practice written in the 2nd century BCE) . One of the five "Yama" is called "Satya" which means "truth in word and thought" or "truthfulness". The above "homework" invites you to experiment with "satya".
In Buddhist terms this homework corresponds with one of the eight precepts " right speech" - refraining from hurtful or false speech. However it is not necessary to be sympathetic neither to Buddhism nor yogic philosophy to benefit from implementing, or trying to, the above.
I have just broken this "precept" and publically appologize to Nick.
Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them. ~Author unknown