My local post office in DC offers a rather helpful decision point that I only just noticed today. Below the slot where you place your mail is a convenient receptacle for trash. I’m fairly confident they didn’t design this as a cognitive prompt. But I’m going to take it as one, anyway.
Every moment we say something, mail something, or send something by email or social or other media, has a moment just before it where we make this choice: Send it, trash it, or pause to recraft it to make it worthy to send? It struck me this morning how often I squander that “moment just before.”
The folk wisdom about that moment is captured in this pithy sentence:
If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?
That quote is commonly attributed to the Buddha, although the helpful researcher at Fake Buddha Quotes suggests otherwise. The Buddha offered five indicators of “right speech” in a similar vein:
It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of goodwill.
Now, I’m no Buddhist, but I’m gleeful about co-opting smart people from the past. So, I’m adapting both checklists to create one of my own:
Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
I probably can’t ask the U.S. Post Office to display this checklist next to their “send or trash” decision station. But I can certainly place it on a post-it note on my computer screen, and ask myself (truthfully, usefully, and kindly, of course) whether the thing I’m about to send or say is worth the sending.