How To Be Both Real and Kind
In a day and age of heightened sensitivity, even the smallest remark can be taken disrespectfully and set someone off. So, how does one express them self without hurting others?
Buddhist psychology says to ask three questions: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Let’s break it down.
Is it true?
If sharing a feeling or opinion, is what you’re expressing actually real to you? If not, don’t say it. If you are passing along information or a story, is it factual (vs. being based off interpretation, assumption, or hearsay)? Otherwise it could be misleading or gossip. Are you sharing the entire truth (i.e. not downplaying or shelling out half-truths)? This is an important one as your message could be misinterpreted and potentially cause more damage, if not accurate. All in all, these are excellent 1st questions, especially for those who tend to say everything on their mind, and those who are afraid to have what they perceive to be challenging conversations. As your parents probably told you a million times, “tell the truth.”
Is it necessary?
What is the value in sharing both for yourself and the recipient of the message? Will it benefit you (i.e. be nice to get something off your chest, or result in you getting what you ultimately want)? Will it benefit them (i.e. could the information or opinion serve them in getting what they want, or save them time & effort)? How important is this for you to share? Whether you are giving feedback or criticism to a co-worker, family member, friend, or setting relationship boundaries, check in with yourself first to determine whether it is the ideal course of action. If it’s not necessary, you could potentially avoid conflict and minimize the chance of hurt feelings.
Is it kind?
Are you delivering your message from a loving place or with vengeance? This calls into question your intention and delivery technique, which are crucial factors in how your message will be received. As you know, communication is key in any relationship, and HOW you communicate is what makes it effective.
3 Tips: 1) Be compassionate and show you care. Let them know your motive and why you think it is necessary to share (i.e. the benefits). 2) Be empathetic and understanding of their position “I can totally relate, I had a situation like this before” or “I feel you, I know it’s not easy information to absorb.” 3) One more valuable tip is to be supportive and offer assistance, asking specifically, “what can I do to help.”
While ultimately common sense, being real and kind is not always so easy, especially in charged/high-emotion moments, and is thus a constant practice. But with anything that takes practice, it will become more natural as you make it a habit. And there will be times when someone doesn’t know what to do with the information you’re giving them and that’s okay. Be patient and understanding. Because deep down, the authentic nature of humans is love.