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Choosing The Right Words

edited November 2009 in Arts & Writings
Something I wrote earlier today and wanted to share.
Choosing The Right Words (click for original article)

There is karma to everything that we say. This means that our words have consequences. They can bring inspiration and joy to others but they can also bring sadness and pain.

For these reasons I suggest that we become more mindful of the things we say. All too often we speak with haste, not considering whether or not what we say has value, and not reflecting on the outcome of what has been said. Here are a few tips to sharpen our ability to say the right thing at the right time, without all the fluff and idle chatter.
Pause And Think Before You Speak

One of the most common reasons we say the wrong things is because we don’t take the time to pause and think before we speak. Our words become more powerful when we put in this extra effort. From now on take the extra seconds to replay what you say in your head before you utter the words, especially when you are having a particularly meaningful conversation with a friend or loved one.

Ask Yourself “Does What I Say Have Value?”

Are you saying something to achieve a purpose or do you just like hearing the sound of your voice? Sometimes we are saying something only to make ourselves feel good, but if what we say has no value to the other person then why say it at all. Maybe it is because we are speaking to a confidant in order to get some negative feelings off our chest. This is understandable, but more often than not we should make our words valuable to the other person. If others don’t see any value in speaking to us then it is likely that the person won’t value talking to us again in the future. This is not necessarily a good way of building lasting relationships. Add value to your conversation – even if it is only to provide simple pleasures like humor or joy.

Consider Who You Are Conversing With

Choosing the right words often depends on who it is you are talking to. You would probably use a different range of vocabulary around your college buddies then you would around your grandparents. But sometimes the differences become more subtle. Some of your friends may be interested in politics, others may hate the thought of it. It is important to choose the subject of the conversation depending on who you are speaking to. Be aware of when someone is losing interest and then change the thread of the conversation.

Consider The Environment

Everything has a time and place. Be sensitive to your environment and be aware that some topics of conversation are more friendly during certain times than others. Nightclubs are rarely a good place to talk about the philosophy behind God. Your wedding is not a good time to share your favorite “getting drunk” stories. Again – some of these are obvious and other differences can be subtle. Consider the mood of the environment, the types of people around you, and the appropriateness of what you want to say.

Don’t Be Afraid To Reflect Back On Your Words

The time to reflect back on your words is not directly after you say them but once you are alone after the fact. The reason for this is because you don’t want to get stuck in your head during a conversation. Therefore there is no point in analyzing words until you have some time to yourself. The point of this process of reflecting is to catch something that you may have been previously unaware of during the conversation. In retrospect you may find that you didn’t choose the best words to describe your feelings or thoughts. Don’t beat yourself up over it – just learn to be more mindful of these things in the future – and try to apply what you learned into future conversations.

Pay Attention To How Others Speak

This is an effective method for two reasons. First, by paying close attention to the words others use you will have a better idea on the way they think and which particular words are most meaningful to them. This is a great way to get into the mind of another person. You can then use these words in your own pattern of speech and create a stronger connection. The second way this tip becomes useful is when you are listening to a conversation between two other individuals in a group setting or on a TV interview. You may find that someone has a great way of explaining a certain situation or feeling. Maybe they told a really great joke you would like to borrow or they use a particular word you find really effective. You can use your listening skills and later apply what you learned into your own daily speech.


I hope you found these tips useful. One of the principle teachings in Buddha’s Eightfold Path is Right Speech and I have used the Buddha’s lessons in mindfulness and karma to improve my own intentions when I speak. The list above is really nothing but a collection of intentions one can have when conversing with others. Following this advice will lead to more purposeful and effective speech.


  • edited November 2009
    Indeed, words are a good awareness exercise.

    ``Words having these five characteristics are words well-spoken. What are these five characteristics? The five are:
    • spoken at the proper time
    • spoken in line with the truth
    • spoken gently
    • spoken beneficially
    • spoken with a friendly heart
    Speech having these five characteristics are words well-spoken."
    Buddha ~ AN V
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