I first learned of the acronym W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) from 8 Limbs Yoga Teacher Sally Carley. When she shared it’s meaning I laughed and paused. It’s a question most of us could benefit from pondering more often than we do.
Why do we say the things we do? Why do we feel compelled to open our mouths at the precise moments we open them?
Many of us at 8 Limbs have begun studying a model known as nonviolent communication (a.k.a., NVC). NVC is a call to consciously use communication to further understanding and connection with others. It asks us to check our assumptions and motivations before we open our mouths. It requires us to honor the humanity of those with whom we’re in conversation with – to be honest, humble and compassionate.
There are many different ways to reflect upon if what we have to say is actually in service to the greater good. Below are four questions, known in Buddhism as the Four Gates of Speech. These questions can help us wait before speaking to help foster understanding and connection.
1) Is it true?
Determining truth is more than ensuring a lack of outright deceit. It involves releasing narratives, filters, biases and evaluations. We’re asked to observe what actually has transpired, watching out for conditioned tendencies.
2) Is it necessary?
Is it useful? Will voicing it, in Gandhi’s words, “improve upon silence”? This question can help us keep our ego in check. We’re invited to keep the big picture in mind – to distinguish between our capacity to add more detail, to correct, object… in the moment from what will lend to the most good in the long run.
3) Is it kind?
Similar to the concept of ahimsa in yoga, this question highlights the importance of doing no harm. Will sharing further connections with others? Will everyone’s dignity be upheld? We’re asked to do our due diligence in proceeding with care and compassion.
4) Is now the right time to say it?
On a practical level this can look like making sure folks have the time and are in a good place to digest what we have to say. This can also look like checking to see if we’re really the ones who should be taking up air time in the moment. Are there other voices that deserve to be heard? It can also be useful to consider if actively listening would be more beneficial.
Unless the answer is yes to each of these questions, it’s probably best to wait. What helps you to know whether you should be talking or waiting? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, 8 Limbs Leadership Coach