On Talking Dirty

The title of this post is a bit misleading, because I’m not writing about a bunch of naughty stuff here—after all, this is a kid-friendly website! But I did want to spend a little time to explain how to clean up our speech and why doing so can help us gain some peace of mind.

Speech is powerful, something as seemingly innocuous as a few words can make or break your day. Think about the last time you received an unsolicited compliment, or worse, an insult. The compliment may have brought with it a little tingle of joy, and the insult may have been more of a stinging slap to the ego. Our words carry weight, and can leave an impact long after things quiet down.

So it seems that being aware of what we say and how we say it could help make our days better for ourselves and for those around us.

Wise speech is a topic in Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and many other religious, spiritual and ethical discourses. Recognition of our words’ inherent power calls for some personal responsibility, which is probably why many of these texts include guidelines for speaking. Instead of delving into a long-winded comparative exploration of these texts, I thought that the following two bullet points might be useful for cleaning up our talk.

  • First, pay attention to what you say. Without an awareness of what we’re saying, positive or negative, it’s going to be rather difficult to make any changes to our habits.
  • Second, before you speak ask yourself the following two questions:

Is it true?

Is it helpful?


If I can’t answer YES to BOTH of these questions it is an indication to me that I should probably rethink whatever I’m about to say—or maybe not say anything at all.

This has proven to be both a challenging and fulfilling practice for me. Even though it wasn’t easy at first, I soon saw the benefits of speaking cleanly. As difficult as it was initially, it now offers me a surprising amount of freedom. I can more actively listen to those around me and I’m not worried about being right or proving a point; instead, I’m more focused on creating a situation that is beneficial for each of us in the conversation. I don’t have to look over my shoulder to see if the subject of my gossip is entering the room. I am no longer worried about whether or not I have hurt someone’s feelings with my careless speech. I don’t have to juggle any white lies in my mind. And I feel good about the things that I have said. In fact, I find that the practice encourages me to give honest compliments when I’m not sure what to say to someone.

It’s a work in progress for me, and there are still plenty of times when I get to practice self-forgiveness when I’ve not been the wisest with my words. But it’s something I see the value in continuing. I hope you will too!

Try the two bullet points above for an hour today and see how it feels. Does it change the way you write emails? Does it change how you’re connecting with those around you?

Stay tuned for more on cleaning up our words—next time I touch on this topic I’ll talk about cleaning up our internal monologue.