Day 8 – Right Speech Wrong Intention?
Hearing Thich Nhat Hanh speak about anything is a joy. He picks his words with such care, wisdom and compassion for his listeners. He doesn’t hold back. He speaks with vulnerability in order to connect with every single person in the room who is listening.
Why don’t people do more of this in their lives? Why are we so careless with our words, spewing them out without a thought for the consequences? We all know the sting of hurtful words that have stayed with us over the years. We all know how easily we’ve said something careless in the past and not meant it to come out and sound like it did. Yet we still speak mindlessly.
The words don’t even have to be bad words in themselves. It’s the intention behind the words rather than the words that hurt the most. That intention could be hurtful, cruel, vindictive or simply lacking in compassion while you’re simply asking for the time. This is something you learn how to master while practicing the art of acting. Actors are always thinking of the subtext behind the words they speak, but rarely do people appear to think of the subtext behind the words they speak daily.
For example, I have a co-worker who uses words whose meaning is supposed to evoke a feeling of compassion and support. However, her intention is clearly that of frustration at not knowing what you really think of her, wishing to stir up and find out negative feelings in you so that she can feel better about herself, and wanting to know more of your private life, which she later uses against you in completely inappropriate ways. I don’t believe her intentions are genuinely those of concern and compassion because she leaves me feeling emotionally drained whenever I let her into my emotional life. I do know that she does this because she is mindless when she speaks. She is not aware of her true intentions and therefore cannot make sure she speaks mindfully and with compassion to others.
It appears to me that if we all were more mindful of the words we use with people everyday as well as the intention behind what we are saying we could create a much more peaceful and mindful existance. We wouldn’t feel the need to mindlessly fill the silence and could therefore be more careful with what and how we say things to others. For example, before you ask someone how they are feeling decide if you really, truly want to know their answer. Make sure you aren’t simply exchanging pleasantries otherwise the experience of greeting someone could be disappointing for the both of you. If you can’t handle any answer that may be given in return to a greeting it’s time to decide whether you should be asking the question at all.
Most of the work in conversation is in the listening. Listening with compassion. However, this does not mean we should forget to speak mindfully. Speaking with compassion. If we can practice doing both and accept that sometimes it is better if nothing is said, then I believe all people will suffer less at the hands of mindless speech.
One word can ruin someone’s whole day. Let’s remember Thich Nhat Hanh and go vulnerably into conversation with the intention to speak and listen compassionately so that we make that persons day instead.
#deepdive – 8.5 mins