We’ve all heard the saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” One way we learn to tame and control our minds is by controlling when and how we speak. I truly believe that if we learn to control when we speak, we can change our whole life. As little kids, we are notorious for saying whatever thought comes to our minds. Yes, kids can be brutally honest and oh so cute doing it, but that cuteness wears off quickly. We eventually grow up and have to mature and saying whatever comes to our mind is no longer considered adorable. It quickly becomes the best way to lose any friend we ever made. We weren’t born knowing how to do this and our childish mind will want to tell it like it is, but we have to learn to do this very important skill. So how can we change our lives by simply minding our tongue?
STOP, THINK AND LISTEN
How do we become nicer human beings that everyone doesn’t run away from? We must learn to control our mouths. Learning to STOP, THINK AND LISTEN (STL), does not mean you don’t have an opinion or are submissive to others. It does not mean we agree with what the other person is saying, but rather it is a personal choice to become a better version of ourselves. It simply means we have learned to control that one little super strong muscle that is our tongue. Trust me, it is not as easy to do as it sounds. We are not doing this for the other person, we are doing this for ourselves. I believe we should learn to listen to others just as much as we deserve to be listened to.
When I first started to learn to tame the wild beast that was my tongue and to STOP, THINK AND LISTEN, I would literally have to lightly bite my tongue or the side of my lip and politely smile. This was my cue to STOP speaking and it sent a message to my brain that yes, I am here and am cognizant of what is being said. Then I had these THOUGHTS for my subconscious: “I am cognizant of what is being said and although I don’t agree with him or her, I choose to not respond with hard accusing words that could make this situation worse. It is my choice not to speak. This is my choice and by doing so, I will avoid a confrontation that ultimately will leave neither of us in a better state of mind than we were before. Some arguments are not worth winning and this is one of them. This conversation is going nowhere, and he is unwilling to see things from my perspective. This person is not worth losing my peace of mind over simply because he wants a fight buddy. I choose to be wise and stay quiet for my own sake. This is my choice.”
Become a Better Listener
Learning to STOP, THINK AND LISTEN allowed me to understand my loved ones better by listening more and talking less. We all like to be listened to and sometimes listening to others is all it takes to get to know them more. It’s not enough to give advice but to first learn to understand what they really need advice about. Sometimes people don’t need any advice at all, they simply need to be listened to. So by simply listening, we learn to see things through their eyes. It’s so easy to pass judgment on others based on how things look through our side, but things are always different from their angle. By listening we get to understand why people do what they do. Sometimes we already know what we need to do, we just need someone to listen to us.
We can learn so much about others by simply doing STL and all our questions are usually answered. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. Understand we all do what we do for a reason, so by finding out what those things are, we can become more sympathetic to their situations and their struggles. Nobody likes to have problems. Nobody likes to feel pain or sadness in our lives. We all make mistakes. Situations usually happen as a result of an action or behavior. They are consequences of our behavior, so by listening we can learn to understand what these behavior are without having to say anything and sound judgemental.
Control an Automatic Reaction
Out of all the good things that can come from listening to understand and help others, it also teaches us a new habit. Learning to stay quiet is actually a lot harder than we think it is. I still remember the time I decided to listen more and speak less. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was rather difficult. Our automatic response to reply to something someone said is very very strong, especially when we don’t agree with it. “Who does this person think he is?” I made many mistakes by speaking before I even knew what the other person was even talking about. I put my foot in my mouth, per se, time and time again.
I finally realized this was a bad habit I needed to break. Studying psychology gave me knowledge but I was making many mistakes by simply talking too much. It happens to all of us. We assume everyone is always ready to learn from us. I decided I was going to learn to listen more than simply trying to say the right things. Like every new habit we make, it takes practice, and learning to stay quiet was almost impossible at the beginning for me. We all like to be right. We all like to win an argument, so it’s near impossible in the beginning. To decide I didn’t want to win an argument was one of the hardest things I had to learn to do. I made a decision when I finally realized my way was not working. It was actually making things worse. What started out as a discussion would almost always end up as an argument or a fight. A fight for who was right and who was wrong.
What was I winning by winning? Nothing. An argument turned into a fight that would make two people downright hate each other. What exactly was I winning? On the other hand, what would I win if I decided to lose? A surprising thing happened. By deciding to lose an argument from the beginning radically changed my perspective. I didn’t have to agonize over what I was going to say. I didn’t have to experience anguish over the mental stress involved in being in a fight. I didn’t have to suffer sadness afterward because I was drained over a terrible fight or just simply ruining what could’ve been a nice moment. I realize now I ruined many special occasions by simply trying to be right. Was I right? Probably, well at least to me. I have learned that this is all that matters. If I think I’m right, then the other person thinks they are right too. We are all butting heads for no reason, other than we want to win the argument.
Just simply knowing it doesn’t matter who is right put so much weight off my shoulders. I could now simply listen and learn from their point of view. I could sit there and nod and be intrigued by their perspective. Sure, maybe it was an all wrong perspective, but that made it even more interesting that someone could be so wrong but yet so right in their own minds. It all became so fascinating to me. It was then that I realized I was beginning to have a true psychologist mind. I was transforming and I was so proud of myself for this. I no longer cared to win, I no longer cared to be right, I cared to listen and learn and not take what they said personally. By having the self-control to stay quiet I had already won. I had learned to conquer my mouth, one of the most reactive out of control muscles in our bodies. I had broken the when we think, we automatically say link. I had learned to not let what others say control me, I controlled myself.
Become a Positive Conversationalist
So are we to turn into mimes and never say a word when we talk to someone? Not exactly. This is actually when the SPEAK part comes in. When we do speak, we can make things worse by simply saying the wrong things, or make things better by saying the right things. We have to learn to say things that make the situation better and not worse. I had learned to STOP, THINK and LISTEN and now I had to learn to SPEAK only when I could improve the situation. The best time to do this was when I actually agreed with something the other person was saying. This allowed me to speak more positively and enthusiastically during the conversation. So if I found myself not agreeing, or being completely repulsed by what they were saying, then it was time to go quiet again. If we do this enough times, we are actually conditioning the other person to say more of the things you want to hear and less of the things you don’t. So by not saying anything when we don’t like what we hear and responding positively and cheerfully when we do, we are essentially positively reinforcing them to say the things you do like. This is how the mind works, yall. We all like to be praised and adored and tend to do more of that which brings us compliments. We are emotional beings, we are simple-minded, so we have to use this to our advantage.
SPEAK: POSITIVE, NEUTRAL AND NEGATIVE
So half the iceberg is when to stay quiet the other half is when we actually speak. After we master the art of staying quiet, we have to master the art of responding. There are three main types of responses we can make in any situation: POSITIVE, NEUTRAL, AND NEGATIVE. It’s interesting to note there’s actually more than one response to any conversation. Most of us immediately tend to respond with the emotional negative response we feel when we don’t agree with what they are saying. This emotional response usually ends up making matters worse. First, we can choose to not say anything during a conversation and simply listen, or we can choose what we say. Remember, just because we think of something in our mind, it doesn’t mean it has to come out of our mouths. We all have this power. STOP, THINK, LISTEN and then SPEAK. (STLS) When it is the right time to speak, choose what you are going to say wisely. Choose your words, and not just as a reaction led by your emotions because you’re angry.
Think, “if I speak how, can I make things better, or worse?”
- We are all familiar with the Negative Response that most of us go to when we’re angry or don’t agree with someone. “You’re an idiot” or “That’s a terrible ideal.”
- But we can also respond with a less enthusiastic Neutral Response such as “Ok.” or “Sounds Interesting.” Anything that says I hear you but don’t want to contribute anything else because I probably don’t agree with you. This is the best kind of response when you don’t agree with someone but it’s also a great way not to make matters worse.
- Then there’s the mother of all responses, the kind that will make the heavens part for the other person, the Positive Response. “That’s Awesome!”, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.” or “You’re so smart.” You get the idea. You can butter it up as much as you want, obviously not looking too obvious or sarcastic. More often than not, they probably won’t even notice you are exaggerating just a bit and you will now become their new favorite person in the world.
I have learned that when I choose the positive reaction, I actually end up feeling so much better afterward. It actually makes me feel good to make others feel good. It becomes a chain reaction where everyone wins. A conversation should be a great way to pass the time, talking and getting to know one another, and not about attacking them and then insulting them for thinking or believing the way they do. So learn to STOP, THINK, and LISTEN, and when you are ready to take it to the next level and be loved by everyone you talk to, SPEAK POSITIVELY and kindly.
So, as the saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” This is exactly what I mean. Winning an argument could mean losing a friend or starting a war you simply don’t have the time or mental capacity to handle. We should strive to have more mental peace and less stress in our lives and simply choosing to stay quiet will allow you to have that peace we all need. What we say and when we say it is our choice and not just some random reaction you have no control over. It may take a little bit of practice, or a lot like it did for me, but it’s so worth it. It’s your mind, it’s your mouth, you can control these two and when you do, you will see your whole life transform into a more peaceful existence you can’t help but be proud of.
Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.