We live in a world where everyone talks far too much. We talk excessively in public and in private. As a wise man put it, “Men seem to feel the need to cloak and excuse their imperfections and wrong deeds in a mass of prattle.” We need to devote a few minutes each day to the healing, soothing, purifying influence of silence.
Socrates counselled his disciples to keep their mouths shut—and speak only when absolutely necessary. “O wise one, how may we know when it is right to speak?” they asked him. “Open your mouths to speak only after you have asked yourself three questions, and received an affirmative answer to each of the three,” replied Socrates. What are the three questions?
The first question we must ask ourselves before we speak is—is it true? If we are not sure about the veracity of what we are saying, it is better that we do not utter a word. When we utter words carelessly, we ourselves become transmitters of untruth.
The second question to ask is—is it pleasant? Many are the empty remarks and vain statements that people make in idleness to hurt others. It is better that these unpleasant words remain unspoken. The third question according to Socrates is—is it useful? Is our statement going to benefit the listener? Will our words bring comfort to someone? Are we likely to help someone with what we say? Only in that case should we go ahead and speak.