You can find great truth in the old saying, “There are two things that can never be taken back, the sped arrow and the spoken word.” Boy, is that true.
Have you ever found yourself trying to get those “just spoken” words back into your mouth? I know I have. It is as futile as trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube…once it’s out, it’s out.
I don’t know why we have a propensity to do this—maybe in the fast pace of this world in which we live, we find our words flying out of our mouths before being deflected by thought.
Years ago I heard a speaker (I think it was Chuck Swindoll) share what has become, for me, a tried and true skill for helping me in this area. He said (and I will paraphrase) “Before allowing any words to come out of your mouth, make sure you run them through the four filters:
1. Is it true?
- Did you hear it first hand or did your colleague say she heard it from this guy in the North Region who overheard his boss on the phone…you get the picture. If you can’t verify it, don’t repeat it. And another thing, just because it is the truth does not mean it needs to be repeated. People don’t have a right to know everything (more on this later).
2. Is it confidential?
- If someone told you something in confidence, bury it. Lock it up and throw away the key. Here is a good test: If you find yourself saying, “You know I probably shouldn’t tell you this…” THEN STOP! You’re right! You probably shouldn’t be saying it…even if it’s true
3. Is it kind?
- This one is so simple. Is what you’re about to say going to build up or affirm someone or is it going to tear them down or embarrass them? If it is not kind, zip it…even if it’s true.
4. Is it necessary?
- Is what you are about to say really necessary to the conversation or do we just want to use some words? Be honest aren’t there times we want to be perceived as the person with some insider information? There are also times when we just want to hear ourselves talk. Fight the urge. Let the moment pass.
I have found that allowing my words to pass through these four filters causes me to say a whole lot less that I want to take back.