Speak? Remain Silent?

It can be really, really useful to have simple criteria to call upon, for all those  situations when we are not sure whether to speak up, or not.

Right (or skillful) speech (and action) is a core teaching in Buddhist practice, and the best articulation on this matter that I have ever heard came from one of my teachers at Zen Center not long ago (thank you Pam). I’d like to share this teaching with you. By the way, these same criteria apply equally well for decisions concerning right or skillful action.

Firstly, (and this is the vital point for all these), get clear on your intention…for the benefit of who am I going to speak?.


1) Is it true? (For right action, you might subsitute the word “just”,or “fair”)

2) Is it necessary? (Or will the person get there on their own?)

3) Is it kind? (Here you have to be very clear on the distinction between the  meanings of “hurting” and “harming” someone. Sometimes, it may be necessary to say something which can cause hurt feelings, but will nevertheless really benefit the listener to know or hear – remember your intention?

4) Is it time? (Even the most loving and necessary observations or advice can be a disaster if offered at an inappropriate time. Is the person open /ready?)

Practice Tip Push PinPractice Tip: Post a copy of these near your workplace where you will see them often (I have). After not too long, you will integrate them, and you’ll find yourself spontaneously applying them when deciding whether or not to speak. You will find this teaching most useful. It has helped me – a lot!

About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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