I attended an all-girls high school and many of my teenage memories are set there. It is also the place where, aside from my mother’s tutelage, I learned to be a young lady. One of my teachers, she was a large but demure woman, tall but stately and with the graciousness of a queen, and who, although you imagined she could sing an aria without a microphone, never extended her voice into a shout. I admired her so and in one of our counseling sessions, she taught us that in interactions with others, you should always ask yourself 3 questions before you speak (l later learned that the lesson came from a children’s story but I prefer to think my teacher made it up)
Is it true? In short, don’t lie but also don’t embellish the truth.
Is it kind? Just because something is true doesn’t mean that it won’t be hurtful if you say it, so instead of just saying the true thing, refrain from saying the unkind thing too.
Is it necessary? Just because it’s true and kind, doesn’t mean that you should say it. Sometimes it’s not the right time to make a comment, even if it’s a compliment. Be truthful, tactful and timely.
A few days ago, I had to give an assessment of one of my students. What I said was true, and necessary and while she didn’t think it was kind now, it is kind to the future version of her, because unless she takes into account the issues I pointed out, she will have a difficult road ahead of her.
The true-kind-necessary lesson I got, oh some twenty-odd years ago but it still serves me well. I hear people get into trouble with their words and I think, they should have thought a little more about their statement before they made it, asked themselves those 3 little questions perhaps. There have been times when I made a comment to a person and felt sad afterwards because of their reaction, and it has always been an instance where if I had thought a little bit more about my words, passed them through the true, kind, necessary filter, I wouldn’t have said what I did. I’m not perfect. No one is. But I think we should be trying to get better everyday, studying ourselves to see where we can improve.
I have a meeting in a few days with someone who pushes some of my buttons and who sometimes, the things I think about saying I don’t allow to leave my lips, because while they are true and necessary, I haven’t yet figured out the way to make them kind and positive. But I’m trying. Meanwhile, I bite my lip and chew some gum and try to refrain from saying the words that would create a bad experience. Here’s hoping that person also reads my blog and adopt these principles themselves so our meeting will be productive.
What is something you constantly have to remind yourself of?