We continued to explore mindful speech this week. Last night’s dhamma talk focused on the development of empathy, and an investigation of the extent to which self-interest affects our communications.

I appreciate a discourse in the Samyutta Nikaya (S. 55:7) that describes the Buddhist equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Consider how you would feel if someone spoke to you in a way that was false, malicious, harsh or frivolous.  Then reflect, if you spoke to others in such a way, they would also find it displeasing and disagreeable. Because you know such speech is not pleasing to ourselves and not pleasing to others, you can choose to not speak words that are false, malicious, harsh, or frivolous. This teaching recognizes the value of empathy and the potential for change that comes when we consider the experience of the other party in the communication. Through mindful reflection we can bring greater sensitivity and skill to our speech acts.

The assignment for this week encourages the continued investigation of the extent to which self-interest and desire are a motivating forces in speech.  Craving propels action. Often we speak (verbal actions) because we want something. But we are not the only one in a conversation with desire. Each participant, even a silent listener, might be wanting something.

Assignment:  Before, during, or after each significant interaction, identify what you desired or wanted in the communication, how you attempted to get what you wanted, whether you felt your approach was appropriate and beneficial, and whether or not it was successful.

Identify what you think the other person in the conversation desired/wanted, how they tried to get what they wanted, and how appropriate, beneficial, and successful it was.