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September 28th, 2010:

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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