Restraint of Tongue and Pen

A viral passage of the 12 and 12 talks about the value of staying quiet.

“Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered criticism and furious, power-driven argument. The same goes for sulking or silent scorn. These are emotional booby traps baited with pride and vengefulness.  Our first job is to sidestep the traps.” Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p. 91.

Although AA is a program of action, NOT doing something is often the best action an AA can do. When writing or speaking, staying quiet and resisting the urge to chime in might be the best (and most spiritual) thing to do.

Silence is Golden

Silence can have a more significant and positive impact than some ill-conceived chatter that is hasty, unclear, or laced with anger. People often feel the need to respond when a response isn’t even required. It’s a habit.

Let us not forget the old saying (often misattributed to Mark Twain), “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

The same goes for written responses. Today, more than ever with digital communications, prematurely hitting the send button can have disastrous consequences. And, once sent, these consequences are now for all to see, forever!

So, what is the solution?

The solution is making it a goal to raise one’s awareness when communicating. Try to stay centered in your serenity and purpose when listening or reading. Pay attention. Look the person in the eye. Smile. Nod the head and don’t interrupt. Be comfortable with periods of silence.

And, if you find yourself feeling irritated during a conversation or when reading an email, slow down.  Breathe. Don’t take it personally. Sit up straight. Watch your posture. Then, don’t take the bait and get sucked into others’ conscious (or unconscious) agendas.

One caveat with written communication has been that sometimes not responding can make matters worse. People often cook up scenarios about how to interpret a lack of response that can be way off base. This is why I almost always reply to a message that requires a response with a simple “thank you” or “I will consider this,” then giving myself time to respond with care and thought. I have found these simple, timely, and innocuous responses can create great detente and calm people down, avoiding a “silent scorn” assessment when it isn’t there. I have found that when people play mind-reader (why aren’t they responding?) with emails and texts, they are almost always wrong.

Work at It!

Communication is and always will be at the core of forming and maintaining relationships. This big book passage is great advice. So, if you make improving your communications with others a priority and you practice some of these principles, you may find that you’ll develop some skills for a lifetime of better personal relations.

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