Thinking. Speaking mindfully.

I blogged this for SOHI magazine this week as part of their 'Mindfulness month'. Happily, it was also a chance to let the world know that I am a 'pen for hire'. Keeping with the whole theme of living mindfully, and being in a recycling frame of mind, it seemed sensible to use it here too.

I think about words a lot, and it’s not just because I’m a writer and editor. Mostly it’s because of my children. My seven year-old son has autistic spectrum disorder. His mind is kind of like a computer – what you put in, you get out. Some days everything that comes out of his mouth is bossy, critical and rude. Those are the days when I have to take a step back and think about how I have been speaking to him. When I’m rushed, or angry or annoyed, the words that come from my heart are destructive and unhelpful. And then I get them right back at me!

During a fight with my nearly teenage daughter last year, she yelled, “I hate you, Mum,” in the heat of the moment, and then went quiet. The words echoed between us in the car. Later she apologised. She knew that words were powerful. Now she tries to say exactly what she means, whether that is, “I’m tired and I don’t want to talk to you,” or “I’m feeling really frustrated right now.”

Speaking mindfully may be the hardest thing any of us can do. But it may also be the most important. Once words are out there for all to see or hear, it’s hard to take them back.

I’ve become annoying in my quest for accuracy with my words. My poor husband puts up with me asking things like “do you really mean that? Are you sure that’s the issue here? Perhaps you’d be better to say this or that?” as we try to have an argument. But it helps. When we can mindfully talk about the real issues without inflaming each other with thoughtless words, we do a lot better with each other.

Whether it’s in relationships, business or advertising, using words mindfully benefits ourselves, our families and our customers. The old, tried and true wisdom that my mother taught me was, “Think before you speak, for heaven’s sake!” In business, it can be translated as, “Get someone who knows what they’re doing to edit, rewrite and check your words for you.”