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The true essence of unspoken words and the impact of spoken ones is highlighted in the chapter. The lesson through an extremely elementary language preaches the importance of thinking twice before speaking. It promotes couth speech.
To Speak or Not to Speak
“Nature has endowed man with two ears and one mouth. If man was meant to talk more and listen less, he would have two mouths and only one ear.”, very wise words indeed by Benjamin Disraeli, a British statesman.
Man was meant to listen more and talk less. The ears are compared to funnels that are always open and acquiring information. However, the mouth is like a closed fort that has two walls, the first being the teeth and the second being the lips. Any word uttered has to pierce through these two walls. Therefore, we must think at least twice before we utter a word.
A learned man once remarked that we are masters of the unspoken words but slaves of the spoken words, in essence, the fact that we stopped ourselves from speaking something we should not have, asserts our dominance. However, regardless of what you do once you have spoken a word you cannot get it back. That word gains control over the consequences and ourselves. Unspoken words are the unsaid things that live in our minds as thoughts.
A young man’s example is shared to further explain the consequences of words spoken in rage. The man seeks his spiritual teacher’s assistance to find an apology for his friend, to whom he spoke harshly and possibly tarnished their friendship. The teacher asks him to write down all the words he said on a blank sheet. Once done writing, he makes the man tear that sheet and throw the bits out of the window.
He then asks the man to go and fetch as many bits of that paper as possible. A half-hour passes by and the young man returns exhausted and defeated. He was unsuccessful in getting even one tiny piece. This is what happens with the spoken word, once you have spoken the words aloud, it is very difficult to take them back. Therefore, one must learn to think before speaking in anger.
Socrates’ Three Questions
Socrates was regarded as one of the wisest men of his day. He counselled his disciples to keep their mouths shut and speak only when absolutely necessary. He implemented the three questions rule, where one must speak only after they have asked themself three questions, and received an affirmative answer to each of the three.
Is it true? That is the first question we must ask ourselves before speaking. It is better not to say anything if we are unsure about the authenticity of what we are saying. When we speak carelessly, we become unwitting carriers of lies. The second point to consider is whether it is pleasant. People make a lot of idle remarks and meaningless statements in their boredom in order to hurt others. It is better if these vexing words are not spoken.
According to Socrates, the third question is, Is it useful? Is what we’re saying going to help the listener? Will our remarks be a source of solace for someone? Is what we say likely to be of assistance to someone? Only then shall we proceed with our conversation.
It is beneficial to have control over our speech before it takes control over us. People remember us by our words more than anything else. Whether or not someone will remember your outfit, they will surely remember what you spoke while in that outfit. One thing said by us might change someone’s entire day. While a kind compliment will make their day, an unpleasant encounter will spoil their mood and make them unhappy. What goes around comes around!