Frankness maybe along the most overrated of virtues! Speaking well is a skill: sneaking kindly is a life skill.

Frankness maybe along the most overrated of virtues! And here’s why. Because unrestricted and unfiltered frankness is a recipe for breaking relationships, even the closest ones. Such frankness is understandable, acceptable and even ‘cute’ only in children under the age of five.

Thinking before one speaks and using restraint are hallmarks of growing maturity and preparation for life. Learning to out a filter between thought and spoken work ( and, even more importantly, written word) is an important life skill. This would do wonderfully well as a filter in our mind.

Words have power to hurt or heal. They are not mere tools for tweeting and messaging. Before the tongue speaks, before the fingers fly over the keyboard, it is important to pause and apply the THINK acronym filter. Is this True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?

it is good to speak what’s true, but only along with the other attributes in the acronym, particularly the last one, kindness. In the righteous glow of speaking what we see as the truth, we often forget to be kind. We blurt out ‘truths’ even when it is totally unhelpful and unnecessary to do so, let alone inspiring! Too often, such truth-telling is destructive rather than noble. Only those who do not care about the consequences can afford the luxury of ‘speaking their minds’ whenever and wherever they please. When relationships are at stake, it is essential to choose the time, place and words appropriately when imparting unpleasant truths. And even then, only when absolutely necessary, and with the utmost kindness.

Speaking without forethought can be even more dangerous in other circumstances, for example, when someone has entrusted us with a secret. A sign of maturity is the ability to keep a secret. Very young children are incapable of understanding the concept of a secret. To them, every piece of information is interesting, new and meant to be shared. As we grow older, we all learn how to keep a secret, but too often we keep only our own secrets and not those that others confide in us. We may blurt out something a friend told us in confidence perhaps carelessly.

But this is the real test of an important life skill : self-restraint. Revealing a friend’s secret is equivalent to betrayal of the friendship. Indeed, the consequences may well speed way beyond the friendship alone. It may lead to gossip spreading like a forest fire, destroying peace of mind and even lives.

Of course it is important to communicate. But it is far more important to be considerate and compassionate. Speaking well is a skill: sneaking kindly is a life skill.