In our Mindful Speech series this week I asked students to reflect on the 4 aspects of speech that the Buddha listed in a discussion with Prince Abhaya (Middle Length Discourses 58). These four aspects are:
1) Is it true and correct?
2) Is it beneficial and useful?
3) Will it be welcome, pleasing and agreeable?
4) Is it the proper and appropriate time to say it?
We can use these four aspects of speech to determine if we should actually speak or not. These factors can be combined in various combinations—sometimes producing skillful speech, and other times unskillful talk. The Buddha said that he knows the proper time to speak words that are both true and useful, and that he would not speak words that were untrue and not beneficial even if they were pleasant and agreeable.
To support mindful speech you might reflect on these 4 aspects before you talk. It may not matter if what you are about to say is pleasing and agreeable, although it can be helpful to reflect on how your partner in communication might receive your words. The other factors, however, are vital for skillful speech. Enjoy speaking words that are true and useful, and spoken at an appropriate time.