How I Decide if Something is Worth Saying

April 04 2024


“Tell them I never spoke unless it improved upon silence.” 

-Carvens Lissaint

I could go on all day about why it’s good to be sparse with your words. Not just in writing, but in everyday conversation, where we often mistakenly feel like everything needs a response. One can see the stickiness inherent in this notion- if that were true, we would never stop talking.

I’ve noticed Koreans are good at this. At not responding to every little thing, I mean. Two of my closest friends are Korean and I’ve spent some time in Korea (the fun one) and have probably watched every Korean action movie ever made, which makes me an expert on their culture. There have been times when I’ve disclosed something to my one friend, Brian, and he’ll just nod and take a drag on his cigarette. I see. He’ll say. Nothing else. This is a common response. I have other American friends who will jump into solution mode, or pass judgment one way or the other. Not Brian. He just listens, and will only respond if he has an actual, relevant thought.

It’s not just a Korean thing, of course. I have another friend, Courtney, who is as caucasian as they come, and she has perfected the art of the cold, blank stare. I experienced it once when I randomly told her she “looked like she could be anywhere between the ages of 25 to 35.”

I’m not surprised that one didn’t get a response.

Anyway, my point is it’s refreshing when people are comfortable with letting things lie. It makes their words more poignant when they do come. I actually think it would be good for most of us, myself included, to raise the bar on whether we put a thought into words. In that vein, I’ve come up with a three-pronged criteria. They are, in order of importance:

1. Is it truthful?

2. Is it helpful or relevant?

3. Is it considerate?

Number one, is it truthful? Should be self-evident. It’s worth noting, however, that I used the word truthful instead of true. Is this actually what I think? Might be another way to phrase it.

Number two: Is it helpful? Something can be both technically true and a complete waste of time. Say things that actually move the situation forward. (I don’t think my comment to Courtney would have passed this test.) Sidenote: a good joke is never a waste of time.

Number three: Is it considerate? Worth mentioning, but the least important. Does it take their feelings into consideration? This is the difference between being honest and being an asshole. There are usually many different ways to say the same thing. When all else is equal, be gentle.

So that’s it. It’s not rocket science. Be honest, make sure there’s a point, and don’t be a douche. I plan on using these criteria going forward, and therefore probably talking a lot less.