One of the most common questions I find myself asking my clients and myself when choosing what to say or which action to take is “is this adding value?” Whether it is to a conversation, to a relationship or to what we want for ourselves.
In a world full of information and communication I am often surprised at the lack of forethought and space that people put between their internal thoughts and their external expressions, in particular when using their words. In a world that is quick to criticise, judge or simply share an opinion, it seems as though there is often so much pressure to fill the space that there is very little consideration given to what words are said and the impact that those words may have on those around us. People clearly say what they think; I often question whether they think about what they say.
It is no surprise to me that at a time when I am attempting to teach my son ‘what we don’t say is often as important as what we do say’ that I find myself with a heightened awareness of all the unnecessary words and comments that exist in many ‘grown up’ conversations. As an extreme example, my son is inclined to provide a commentary on anything and everything that he sees is ‘wrong’, he loves to point out things that those around him have forgotten or errors that they have made even when they are fully aware of these. As a five year old he can be forgiven but there are many ‘grown ups’ out there doing exactly the same thing. Doing what I call “stating the bleedin’ obvious” and highlighting or reinforcing the failing of another in an attempt to subconsciously increase their own self-esteem. Much of this may not be intentional, hence my reference to the subconscious, and many might disagree, so I would ask them to consider whether anything would be lost if those comments were simply left out of the conversation?
What I have found through my own experience and the many experiences I have had the privilege of observing through my clients is that when these words don’t ‘add value’ they often detract and slowly deteriorate both the conversation and the relationship that underpins it. Rarely is any comment neutral, it either adds value or devalues.
I am not suggesting that we take preference for tact over truth, but rather consider a more a balanced view of the two especially when we take into consideration that our truth may not be the same as another person’s truth.
It also isn’t a case of “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”, because a lack of openness can equally deteriorate a relationship. It is simply embracing a more emotionally intelligent approach to any interaction we have, bringing an awareness of our own ‘stuff’ into the equation and ensuring that our ‘stuff’ isn’t being intentionally deflected onto another.
What I have learned from my recent months of observation is to bring more consideration and consciousness to what I say and the words I choose. So I ask myself often, “is what I am about to say adding value to this conversation?”. How do I define value? If what I say is relevant, constructive and compassionate then it is adding value to the conversation and without doubt, the relationship and the same applies to any actions that I determine are necessary for a given situation.
If what I am about to say does not add value then I make a conscious decision not to say it. In situations where I find myself continuing with the comment regardless then I challenge myself to explore the benefit I am getting from expressing the ‘non-value adding’ remark; And there is always a benefit.
So I challenge you to spend a day observing and listening to what is and isn’t adding value to your conversations, drop the unnecessary words, comments and criticisms and see how this adds value to your everyday relationships.