There's a piece of advice that changed my life. I wish I could remember who gave it to me.
The advice was, ‘leave 3 things left unsaid every day’.
Most of my thoughts are part of a long string of ideas which eventually wind up coming to a useful conclusion. As those thoughts are formulating, however, it’s not necessarily a good idea to share them. They're especially dangerous when they’re wrapped up with emotion. At that point, they become supercharged. It’s almost NEVER a good idea to release a half formulated emotional thought.
What Have I Done?
When I first heard this advice, I remember clearly being part of a conversation. I don’t remember what was being talked about that day but I decided to try out my new-found wisdom. I held my tongue, not sharing my unimportant fact about the conversation. There was a 3 second pause. Then, another person in the group took the topic in a direction that had not crossed my mind.
It was interesting and fun to hear where our conversation turned. Later I remember being sad about all the conversations that I had led off into MY useless direction. I wondered about all the things that I hadn't heard because I was busy saying the first thing that popped into my head instead of leaving it unsaid.
I’ve learned to take a pause and listen. Sometimes I see ideas brewing and formulating on people’s faces. It’s fun to wait and see what the next thing they say will be. More often than not, it surprises me and I enjoy where it takes us.
Listen, Don’t Blurt
I can get caught up trying to be part of the group and be heard. This especially happens when I'm with women. In general, women talk easily and quickly. My brain isn’t as quick as most. One on one I'm fine but the larger the group is, the more difficult it is for me to get a word in edgewise. That’s when I can blurt out a thought just to be heard. It hardly ever goes well.
Another trap I fall in to is saying something that comes into my head after I’ve stopped listening. If I’m only paying attention to the conversation to figure out when I can speak next, I’ll blurt out my thought the moment she comes up for air. Adding to the conversation is good but I need to be careful to listen to the complete sentence/story before I speak. (Anyone has complete freedom to call me out on this if I interrupt you!)
Before I received this advice, I had a peculiar notion of marriage. I believed that as a marriage partner, it was my responsibility to share every little thought that came into my head. And, I expected him to do the same. That’s the only way we would really know each other and be close, right?
The principle of leaving 3 things left unsaid each day worked the best and most often in our marriage. Even though I’m slow to speak in a group of women, I can outtalk my husband any day of the week! It seems like I have so many more thoughts than him but I know that’s not really true. He holds many thoughts to himself. He’s also slower to process what’s being said but don’t let that fool you. He’ll remember that tiny fact until the day he dies. My thoughts can flit in and out of my head like butterflies.
When I started to left 3 things unsaid with my husband, it was better for both of us. It slowed down the conversation and I listened more. He was able to process completely before I started on the next topic. He had more time to let me know what he thought and we could come to agreements together.
Try an experiment and leave 3 things left unsaid today. Instead of speaking them into existence, write them down. Then, later decide if you regret not saying those things. Here’s a hint – if you thought it would take too much time or effort to write them down, they probably weren’t worth saying. I've found that the things I don’t say were usually not worth saying anyway.
DISCLAIMER – If you have something important to say such as, ‘I love you’ or ‘You mean the world to me’, don’t leave those thoughts unsaid. We never know what tomorrow will bring.