Thomas, just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to speak it. – Paul Bruner, my dad

Despite my dad’s attempts to teach me otherwise, I used to confuse talking with leadership. As a young leader, I thought that talking first, talking fast, talking a lot and talking often was what leaders did.

In today’s hyper-verbal climate of 24/7 news and social media, the pressure or expectation for leaders to speak can be intense. The rush to weigh in and be heard can sometimes produce harm or injury, both for ourselves and others. We’ve all done it.

Buddha taught the difference between speech and what he called “right” speech. He suggested we consider four questions before, during and after we speak. For leaders of all philosophical and spiritual persuasions, these questions can help us pause to consider our speech through the lens of others.

Is it true? Just because we think, feel or believe something doesn’t make it true. Right speech is asking if what we are about to say is accurate, factual or objectively verifiable.

Is it helpful? We often speak for our own benefit. Right speech is asking ourselves whether what we will say is helpful, useful or beneficial to others.

Is it timely? We usually speak when we want to speak. Right speech asks whether now is the proper or appropriate time to say what we have to say.

Is it kind? Sometimes we speak out of anger and frustration. Right speech means we speak with good intent, good will and compassion for others, even – or especially – when we’re angry or frustrated.

Let’s discuss ways you and your team might benefit from learning to practice right speech.