Being young and brash, I often feel the need to exert my “righteousness” onto people. Whenever I notice something about my friends, I point it out. Not because it had to be said, but because my mouth has the habit of always having an opinion.
The Times I Messed Up
One time, I pointed out to a friend of mine that her straps on her backpack looked like seat belt straps. Now, it made a good joke but at the same time, was it important that she now views her once cherished bag as a sack with seat belt straps?
Or the other occasion when I was in a group and a friend of mine told me that a colleague is going to Company A. But I was so sure it was Company B that I mentioned it into submission. (Later I found out it was Company A)
Or this one other time where I was tempted to talk about this one fellow who I greatly admire, but just had to (for no good reason) mention what I think is wrong with him.
Ben, you just had to. Don’t you?
I know I know. I’m a jerk who just can’t shut up most of the time.
Getting It Together
Realizing my mistakes lately (always happens this way), I decided to look for answers by reading the classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People and reading articles by my favourite modern writer, especially Ryan Holiday.
His best pieces of advice?
- Always say less than necessary
(the more words you say, the higher the chances of saying something wrong)
- Ask yourself: “Am I saying this because I want to prove how smart I am or am I saying this because it needs to be said?” When you’re just getting started, it’s usually the former.
This was in of itself extremely helpful, but there was a test that was written ages ago by a philosopher named Rumi that is still used today and it goes:
- Before you speak your mind, let your word pass through the 3 gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”
Is it factually correct? (My error with Company B fits here)
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”Are you saying it to prove how smart you are or does it need to be said? (My seat belt observation fits the former)
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
Is it something good and positive? (My for-no-good-reason negative opinion of someone fits here)
The Cost of Being Wrong?
Being young and up-and-coming, we all feel the need to prove ourselves or exhibit some form of superiority to show that we got it going on. But at times, this is all merely a facade. Often times, it’s insecurity. But it is alright to be wrong or to keep your mouth shut.
What do you got to lose by being wrong? Nothing much.
What do you got to gain by being right? Nothing much.