Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Best Advice I Ever Got

Back in the late ‘80’s, before Jurassic Park came out and it became common knowledge, I was watching something on PBS that blew my mind. It was a documentary that said the scientific consensus was that modern-day birds were the living descendants of dinosaurs. I'd never heard that before. As someone who likes to think he's well-read and well-educated, I was more than surprised.

So, I went to work the next morning and asked my colleagues, “Did you know that birds were descendants of dinosaurs? You did! How about you?” Turns out, most everyone I asked already knew. Some even looked at me funny. I chalked it up jokingly as, “I must have been absent from school that day!” because that's what it felt like.

I tell you this because I suspect “The Best Advice I Ever Got” is something similar to that, common knowledge for everyone else that somehow eluded me until late in life. It came from, of all people, the CFO of the company I worked for. Word had reached her that I’d had some harsh words with a colleague. She was aware of (and for the most part, liked, I think) my sometimes quick wit and sense of humor. She also knew that sort of thing can cut both ways.

So, alone in her office, as she gently dressed me down, she advised me that before I allow a single word to leave my mouth, I should ask myself the following:

1) Is it true?

2) Is it necessary?

3) Is it kind?

That's it. So simple, really. But putting it into practice, I've found that running whatever it is I'm about to say through those quick filters has saved (I suspect) lots of unnecessary drama, and no doubt, more than a little heartache. Later on, I heard something similar:

1) Does it need to be said?

2) Does it need to be said by me?

3) Does it need to be said right now?

I like that one too.

So anyway, thanks Doreen! I still remember! It certainly came too late to save myself a lost friendship here and there, or long chilly periods in other relationships that somehow managed to survive. I haven’t always been perfect about it either. More often than not, it’s my attempts at “humor” that bite me in the ass, humor that would not have made it through the filters above. But I’m trying . . .

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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