When we talk about mindfulness, we tend to talk about a sense of awareness, both of ourselves and our surroundings. Mindfulness meditation in particular is geared towards observing our thoughts and where we are in the present moment. But what about the other aspects of ourselves? What about speech?

Talking can be innate, even impulsive. It feels so natural because we do it all the time. It is easy to slip into a mindless mode of chatting and babbling. But words are powerful, and being mindful about what we express is as vital as paying attention to how we behave or how we think.  

Here are three major questions you can ask to be more thoughtful during conversations.

Is It True?  

While we rarely speak with the intention to tell outright lies, that doesn’t make our words true. We can perpetuate rumors, spread gossip, exaggerate in ways that cater to our egos and personal bias. Or, we can simply talk in ways that aren’t authentic to who we are and what we want to communicate. When speaking, ask yourself, Is this true? And if it’s not, why am I saying it? What am I really trying to communicate by stretching the truth?   

Is It Necessary?  

Words that take the form of negative comments, complains, or insults can help air our grievances, but they don’t always improve upon the silence. While we mustn’t ever censor ourselves, there are many times when what we want to say isn’t necessary or helpful for the situation at hand. Or, it might be necessary, but not for the given time, place, or audience. It’s always worth considering, Is this necessary? Is it necessary right now? Are these exact words right for the message I want to communicate?

Is It Kind?  

When you say things, are you showing empathy? Are you taking into consideration the feelings of others? Are you saying something that will lift the mood or lift the spirits of those in the room? Expressing kindness isn’t about mindless optimism or giving gratuitous compliments: it’s about knowing which words are the most compassionate. Sometimes, this means refraining from speaking at all. Other times, it means saying what has to be said but using only the gentlest phrasing. Always ask, is this kind? Does what I’m about to say express compassion?  

The goal of mindful speech is not to police your sentences. The point is to be conscious of the words that we often take for granted. Being mindful about speech simply means slowing down and choosing our sentences with care.