Those were the questions I would ask my children when they were itching to say something to someone during a conflict or tense situation. It was amazing to see their little minds cycling through the questions as they ticked off their intended response.
Is it necessary? Did the comment have to be made? Was it necessary that they be the ones saying it? If not, stop there.
Is it True? This was a difficult one. Did so and so ALWAYS do ___? Was the comment an exaggeration? Did they just want to say it because their feelings were hurt? I’d often see a lot of soul searching and revision at this step.
Finally, Is it kind? This one was the last question, but the most important to me. Something could be necessary and true, but still, be very unkindly put. If they got all the way to this question without having to stop, they would then be faced with thinking about the kindest way to say what needed to be said.
I value honesty, and I value kindness. While I would prefer to hear a harsh truth than a sugar-coated falsehood, I’m well aware that harsh truth is sometimes hard to swallow, and it is very unusual that one can’t find a kinder way to say it.
To be honest, though, sometimes that last question has been forgotten when things have gotten stressful, when the time has been short, or when tempers were high. I found myself pulling out the old questions the other day when talking to my teens. They were a little annoyed at first, but within a day or so I could already see the difference. Sometimes all we need is a moment to remember – a second to think before we speak.
My New Year’s Resolution is just to remember those questions and in all things – be kind.