How Managers Can Have Right Speech

Abstaining from lying,
from divisive speech,
from abusive speech,
and from idle chatter.
This is called right speech.

– The Buddha
(Magga-vibhanga Sutta)

The primary goal of giving feedback at work isn’t generally to make someone feel better, it’s to help them work better. Delivered well, honest feedback can often accomplish both. Again, the key is to be direct and focus any criticism on the work, rather than the person. The great Indian Buddhist teacher Santideva summarized Buddha’s guidance as follows: ‘One should speak confident, measured words, clear in meaning, delighting the mind, pleasing to the ear, soft and slow, and stemming from compassion.’ If you can deliver that kind of feedback, you’re on your way to being a very good manager… 

The traditional monastic codes provide for very few exceptions to the no-lying rule. Buddha allowed that sometimes we speak too ‘hurriedly’ and thus make a mistake. He made another exception when we simply misspeak, saying one thing when we mean another. In both cases, we should correct the mistake when we can, but it’s not considered a violation of Buddha’s rules. But that’s about all the wiggle room the Buddha allows. In a lecture he gave to his own son, he says, ‘I will not utter a falsehood even as a joke.’ Yikes!

Buddha offered all these considerations mostly to encourage us to think before speaking at all. Remember, less is very often more. Buddha was a big fan of silence, and of knowing when to pause…. [T]he best path is one of deliberation and balance. Think before you speak, choosing the right time and place as well as the right words. As Buddha put in another verses: ‘Better than a thousand meaningless statements is one meaningful word, which, having been heard, brings peace.

Buddha’s Office: The Ancient Art Of Waking Up While Working Well
Dan Zigmond

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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