Paying attention to the words we use and the effect they have on others, ourselves, and on our own level of serenity is just the beginning of using this everyday activity to deliver tranquility into each day. Just as we can adopt good and bad habits of behavior, so can we do this with our patterns of speech. At times, we are completely unaware of what we are saying. Paying attention is crucial.
There are two aspects to this talk practice, one being deconstructive, the other constructive.
When your serenity is disturbed after you have had a conversation with someone, deconstruct what happened. Review what it was that you said, and think about how you would change it if you could have the conversation again. Of course, you won’t get a second chance, but new opportunities to talk in a different way will continue to arise. Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling that the other person’s words should be different—you have no control over that. Over time, notice your speech patterns and decide to use your words differently on the next occasion presented to you. Perhaps you will notice that you say too much or too little or that your tone is blaming or hostile. Maybe you will notice that you use self-defeating or self-deprecating language. Whatever it is, do not judge it; simply decide that you’d like to change it.
On the constructive side of this talk practice, when you’re engaged in conversation use positive, upbeat language. Do not lie, gossip, or engage in frivolous conversation. This may seem like a tall order, and you may not even be aware that you do it. Every one of us is probably guilty of it at times. While it may seem like innocent fun, keep in mind that words are very powerful and it is your responsibility to use language wisely. It isn’t necessary to be self-righteous when others attempt to seduce you into gossip. Simply change the subject or communicate that you’d rather not participate in the conversation. Or just walk away without casting judgment.
When you have nothing useful to say, keep a “noble silence.” Bring the practice of listening into this practice of talking.
Let silence be an integral part of the whole experience. As soon as idle chatter falls away, you will be more attentive to the person you are talking to and to yourself. Talking will become more meaningful. No words will be wasted. No unnecessary chatter will clutter the atmosphere, and serenity will prevail.