Is it good advice? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. My parents said it, and I always tried to take it to heart. But I’ll ask again; is it good advice? My answer is “Yes… with a caveat.”
While this is a true maxim, there are many situations where hard truths need to be exchanged. Never avoid truth but instead find ways to say the truth in constructive positive ways. Just as Prince John instructs the Sheriff of Rottingham “Tell me the bad news, in a good way!”
First, before delivering a blow, ask yourself if what you’re saying needs to be said? Or, does it need to be said right now. There are many situations when the best part of valor is to sit down and keep your mouth shut. Remember, your words not only affect the listener, but they also amplify how you see yourself. Words are outward pronouncements of our inward thoughts; of how we really see ourselves.
But when truth must be said, be sure to P.A.U.S.E. and consider what you are about to say
- P ➡ Positive: Your words should be constructive, not destructive, and optimistic in tone and engagement.
- A ➡Affirmative: Your words should be truthful and confirmative, supportive of the speaker and their ideas.
- U ➡ Useful: Your words should be helpful, constructive, and add value to the situation.
- S ➡ Supportive: Your words should be reassuring and kind.
- E ➡ Essential: Is what you are about to say necessary and critical to the discussion? Would something be missing is your words were not spoken?
The best reflection of the P.A.U.S.E. philosophy was stated by Xenocrates, a Greek mathematician and philosopher. He once said, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”