Words matter.

Written words. Spoken words. Words that you think inside your head.

They all have power.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s being disruptive in school was a bad thing – probably still is for the most part. However, now “disruptive” describes the best and the brightest in business today and throughout history.

And, the connotations that go with the term disruptive are also favorable: innovative, creative, original, and more.

It would have been great back in high school if my teachers had said, “Mitch, you are so innovative, creative, and original – now keep up that good work down in the principal’s office!”

It can be difficult to say what you mean with words, but holding back the words that need to come out causes other negative side effects.

You Get What You Give

In business and personal affairs, you not only want to be careful about the words you choose, but also how you deliver them to your listener, and maybe most importantly, even if you need to speak them at all.

Earlier in my career, I used the following words when addressing a team member: “I need ‘can do,’ not ‘can’t do’ from you.” True and necessary words, but lacking in kindness.

They had an adverse effect not only on that person but also ultimately on me.

Not what I was going for.

The Three Questions

Before you communicate, weigh what you want to express using the following three questions.

  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it true?
  3. Is it necessary?

It Ain’t Easy

If what you want to say is not kind, then you can stop immediately. If you are not 100% confident that you have all the facts, wait until you do.

And, if it is not necessary, then you are off the hook – this evaluation might end 50% or more of all communication!

Maybe the easy factor is why this approach is ignored so often in our relationships. Being authentically kind is difficult.

Cracking off the first things that come into our heads seems much easier but there are consequences.

And evaluating your communication with others through this list will take time – sometimes days … or longer.

The happy result: others will benefit. Likely your career and personal relationships, too. Maybe even the world.

It’s just plain hard to be upset with a genuinely kind and thoughtful response.

Most surprising is that situations often resolve themselves without your intervention. In the time it takes you to properly run through the three questions, things might have already been worked out – imagine that!

Welcome to a quieter, happier, and safer world.