Intentional Speech

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
-Ben Franklin

What is Intentional Speech?
It refers to a group of guidelines for using language more effectively. Namely, it aims to remove judgment, preserve power and autonomy, and enable collaboration and accuracy.
It’s not a widely-known scientific or institutionalized term. It’s one of our own.

We believe that the tips you’ll find on the following pages can transform how you speak, from:

  • sounding judgmental or implying judgment
  • sounding unsure
  • coming across as vague or indifferent
  • communicating less information

to

  • presenting intelligent/curious inquiries
  • being more confident
  • being concise and calculated
  • communicating more information

You Are What You Speak

Who are you? How would you describe yourself? How do you think?
No matter what your answers are, they are made of language. Whether you’re not sure about your answers or you’re brazenly confident, your thoughts on the matter are conveyed in words.

“The language spoken by somebody and his or her identity as a speaker of this language are inseparable: This is surely a piece of knowledge as old as human speech itself.” – from The Handbook of Sociolinguistics, Flourian Coulmas

And that is a crucial thing to understand. Language plays a central role to the human experience; it’s how you form thoughts. It’s how you communicate thoughts. It’s how you make ideas…about the world, yourself, and everything. You are shaped by your experiences, among other things, and that includes your experiences of people, how you communicate, how you represent and identify yourself, and how you convey your needs, wants, and ideas.

Baruch Spinoza, the mid-17th century philosopher known for his relational model of existence, modeled personhood and language in a new and insightful way with his essay ‘Ethics‘ in 1664.
One of the great rationalists of the early Enlightenment, Spinoza saw language as a web of habits and patterns of affectivity. He drew attention to what language does on top of what it says.

In this new understanding of language, Spinoza deduced that language, as a ‘thing’, co-creates the myths and narratives that shape culture and individual identity. There is even reasonable ground to argue that the use of language, due to how it’s implemented in the brain, changes the evolutionary course of our species.

Literally, the ways we think, speak, and communicate change us at every level.

So, can I speak…better?

Yes, you can. Along with everything here to help you think more effectively, there are a lot of resources on this site to help you communicate more effectively. A few of those:

Compassionate Communication (NVC) – Very closely related to intentional speech, CC or ‘Nonviolent Communication’ is the art of needs-based communication. In that section, you will learn the basics of listening and speaking with empathy, clarifying conflicts by distilling statement into their basic human needs and feelings.

Clean Communication – This is a philosophy that focuses on integrity: saying what you mean, to yourself and others, responsibly. Think…opposite to passive-aggressive. There is a lot of goodness to learn in that section, including the 6 Faces of Dirty Communication and others.

For these pages on Intentional Speech, we’ll be focusing on some cut-and-dry tips for effective speaking. Think of the following 3 pages as pamphlets with how-to’s on what to say, and especially what not to say, to speak (and even think) with more precision, integrity, and intention.

Below is the TL;DR (‘too long, didn’t read’) for the following pages. This is our cheat-sheet for Intentional Speech tips. Follow the buttons for further explanation on each point.

Removing Judgment

Avoid…
-‘Should
-‘Why‘ questions
-‘Yes/No‘ questions

Enabling Collaboration and Accuracy

Avoid…
-‘4-ish Letter Words
-‘I feel like…
-‘I guess‘ ‘You know‘ ‘Like‘ ‘Kind of‘ ‘Sure
-‘Whatever
-‘Really/Very

Preserving Power and Autonomy

Avoid…
-‘Just
-‘Have to
-‘Makes me
-‘Try
-‘I’m busy
‘I’m Sorry’

+Educational Praise