One of the definitions for the word “filter” is “a device that is used to filter out something unwanted.” You can buy a pair of sunglasses to filter out unwanted ultraviolet light. There are water purification filters, oil filters, fuel filters, air filters, pool filters, cigarette filters, coffee filters, aquarium filters, and furnace filters. You can filter e-mails, filter out spam, and put a filter on an Internet search engine. You can even put a lens filter on a camera to reduce the number of wrinkles people see on your face.
But I haven’t found a filter you can buy for personal communication. There are a lot of people who have ruined their lives, be it on a personal or business basis, by saying something stupid, thoughtless, mean, malicious, despicable, inappropriate, condescending, cruel, hurtful, vicious, painful and certainly uncalled-for. If they had just had a filter that would have removed their unacceptable statements, things would have turned out so much better for everyone.
Practicing good manners will serve as a filter, or possibly your experience will help to filter out the things you shouldn’t say. One simple way to protect yourself is to say nothing. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Or you may want to follow the advice of the Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter, who said, “Speak when you are angry — and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Just as a water filter removes the impurities from water, we all need a personal communication filter so we can filter out the impurities from our speech such as: complaining, anger, gossip, cursing, nagging, idle chatter, egotism, condescension, ridicule, and hurtful criticism. I wonder how many people you know would want to filter out certain things you say. Ask yourself this question: Do I brighten the mood of a room full of people when I enter the room or when I leave the room? Maybe you should consider filtering some of the things you are saying.
Plato once said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools speak because they have to say something.” Since there are no personal communication filters available for sale, it is going to fall to us to filter our words. So, let me give you a few rules that might help: Only speak what you know to be true, speak with integrity, before speaking ask yourself would someone be pleased with what you are saying about them, avoid at all costs speaking when angry, and when in doubt, stay silent. My final advice is this simple poem:
Be careful of the words you say, and keep them soft and sweet.
You’ll never know from day-to-day, which ones you’ll have to eat.
Robert Stevenson is a highly sought after, internationally known speaker. He is the author of the best-selling books How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys and 52 Essential Habits for Success. Robert is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and is a former All-American Athlete. He started his first business at 24 and has owned several companies. Robert has international sales experience dealing in over 20 countries and his client list reads like a Who’s Who in Business. He has shared the podium with such renowned names as Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, former President George H.W. Bush, Anthony Robbins, and Steven Covey. www.robertstevenson.org
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