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Three Questions of Communication

A few years ago I learned the best lesson for effective communication.  I don’t know who taught me this technique, but I am immensely grateful to them.  I learned that before I open my mouth, I have to ask three questions about what I want to say.

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

If the answer to all three questions is “Yes,” then I can say it.  If not, I have to keep my mouth shut until I figure out a better way to phrase my thoughts.

I had a job once where I often had to remind myself that it was inappropriate to tell people that they were morons.  Here’s how the questions tended to play out in my head:

  1. Is it true?  Yes!
  2. Is it necessary?  I think so.
  3. Is it kind?  <crickets>

And back to the drawing board I went until I could find a kind way to say what I thought I needed to say.  This approach keeps me out of trouble, especially when I have strong opinions.  It keeps my mouth shut long enough for my brain to catch up with my emotions and determine the proper way to express my ideas.

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9 Comments

  1. John says:

    While letting someone know they are a moron may not be kind, you could never be called an enabler. Just another thought 🙂

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Very true, however, most people don’t respond well to being called a moron. A gentle suggestion or correction tends to be better received and ultimately may be a more effective way to convince a person to remove their cranium from their derrière.

  2. Nelson says:

    But Ruth, isn’t honesty kind?

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I think it depends on the way in which you express your honesty.

    2. Patrick says:

      Of course honesty is kind… it’s brutal honesty that’s the kicker!

      1. Ruth Carter says:

        Exactly! I’ve notice people tend not to listen or take my suggestions when I start the conversation by insulting them.

  3. […] being decent and being a dick (because the real ones will never read this post), here’s a handy three-question test that will help you decide when you should say something … and when you should shut […]

  4. David says:

    Your Questions remind me of the Rotary Four Way Test:

    The 4-Way Test considers the following questions in respect to thinking, saying or doing:

    Is it the truth?
    Is it fair to all concerned?
    Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
    Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks for sharing that David. The question about being beneficial is an excellent thing to consider before one open’s their mouth. I think if everyone thought about that before speaking, we’d have a lot less gossip.