The English dictionary is updated annually, in a large part due to how we use the language. For example, words like ‘offense’ have morphed from the actor taking it as an act of volition, to the actor as a victim of another.
Clearly, how we use language matters. Like, a lot. Very, very much. Totally.
If you’ve already read the other pages on Intentional Speech, this one will offer a bit more depth, and some interesting lenses on the skillset.
With that, let’s start off with an analogy about having the awareness of intentional speech.
Spider Eye Analogy
Our languages have evolved over numerous generations. In some ways, they have carried intention. Especially intentions of clarity, utility, and necessity. In this sense, our languages have been designed by us as a species. We have shaped them.
On the other hand, our languages have shaped us. As our generations live and die, our languages live on, inheriting the many subtle aspects of human psychology. Along the way, they bequeath us habits, implications, and precedents. This baggage we carry along with our speech is remarkably easy to take for granted. Our speech can carry judgment, fumble accuracy, and undermine independence without our noticing.
What does this have to do with spiders?
Next time you’re in nature, at night, during late spring or summer, hold a flashlight near your head, shining it outward parallel to your vision. Scan the ground around you.
Even if there is no precipitation, you are likely to see many tiny, sparkling points. How curious!
Follow one of these points, and you’ll find something you may not have expected: a spider.
Learning about this technique can blow people’s minds. Sure, the ability to find a spider so easily is downright cool, but it’s another thing that shocks people: the awareness that there are that many spiders around all the time.
With your new skills in Intentional Speech, you are offered a powerful level of awareness. Thinking about these insights, even a couple of objective tips like the word “should” or “just“, is something you can’t unknow. With these skills you will notice more keenly what is being implied in the use of words around you. All around you, all the time.
And, with that, you are offered the opportunity to improve. You may take this awareness, and be a force of clarity, peace, and power in the world.
Affecting the World
Speech is action. Your words hold power, potential, and value.
Consider physicality alone: energy changes form, but doesn’t die/end. It has many forms, such as light, heat, motion, electrical, gravitational, as well as sound and breath. Hold your hand in front of mouth and speak: Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers. You felt, particularly, the p’s. Your breath can also blow up a balloon, storing energy, and then pop it (BOOM!). And, your breath can put out a fire (candle) or start one (blowing on embers). Your breath and sounds contain energy, and when they leave your body, they have an effect on the world.
Similarly, almost everything important you do in this world will require and affect other people.
Your beliefs that you string into words determine most of your experience. You can physically build something, but if you want people to help you, you’ll need words to invoke a connection/response. If you want to build relationships, coalitions, movements, and understanding, you’re going to use words to express your vision. On a one-on-one level, dialogue is how minds and hearts are invited to and process change. Think about leaving an impact, a legacy, and think about doing so without being able to convey meaning with words. It’s hard to imagine.
Your beliefs expressed as words are your PRIMARY tool for action and change on Earth. With that understanding, we implore and request you to discover and practice how to express your purpose and positive power with your words.
Five Stages of Development
In our experience, people go through five stages in the implementation of Intentional Speech and its related concepts (Compassionate Communication, Clean Communication). It is important to understand this progression, as otherwise folks seem to get stuck at the stage they are at, and believe that is the end of the road. Or, they’ll see the following stage, and believe that is the end point. Stages 2 and 4 are particularly sticky, yet time with a mentor and practice always yields progress.
As you progress through the stages, be patient with yourself. Even folks at Level 5 make mistakes and struggle, especially in difficult circumstances with oneself or others. We can empower one another to learn and grow in our communities and social circles. Generally, one can teach those at a lower level, help one another learn the level you’re on, and boot-strap figure out one level higher. Maintain a light heart, determined in mind, and stay on the path (below) and you’ll get there!
|1||I don’t get it||No application|
|2||I get it, but I can think of tons of exceptions||Confused application, often being very literal/example driven|
|3||I get it, and I understand the exceptions||Apply it with thought and effort, with those specific words|
|4||I understand the principals involved||Intention behind the word is recognized (e.g. need, dual choices)|
|5||Seamless integration||Beyond conscious application|
Are we (words) breaking up?
“But, when I take out all these words, I’ll trip over my tongue! It’ll be like losing an index finger!”
Yes, you’ll likely speak a little funny at first, and lose some verbal dexterity. Fear not peaceful warrior, you are on the path!
You are not removing words from your vocabulary, but rather using them with purpose, precision, and power.
Use the words. Don’t get rid of them – use them more powerfully.
You will become fluent and deft using all of the words precisely as you intend them to be.
Turning Around or Staying Put
“Oh, wow, this isn’t a piece of cake! I stumble, trip, and sometimes get hurt; it isn’t worth it.”
Your choice in every instance is to choose to be intentional, powerful, and peaceful or to choose aggression and/or weakness. And, more commonly, it is not that extreme, and the choice is to accept some steps along the path, but not reach the end/mastery. Such choices are not only with words, but also with what we eat, puffing on a cigarette, how much we exercise, etc. In what areas and to what degree do we accept challenge and growth?
A big plunge may be too much; if so, pick a few words that really resonate with you as being exciting/interesting to work with, and make those your daily discipline. When you’re doing well with those, add in a few more – kaizen!
“People try nonviolence for a week, and when it does not work, they go back to violence, which hasn’t worked for centuries.” – Theodore Roszak
Review Your Learning
To develop our relationship to language and communication is to allow us to understand ourselves better and others better, and to convey that understanding in ways closer and closer to truth.
As you grow your practice of Intentional Speech, review your progress with the following questions. Start now, and reflect on what insights you’ve gained so far:
- What did you learn? What stuck out to you most? Why?
- Why do you think so much ‘filler’ and ‘unintentional’ speech exists? Does it have an intention? A purpose? If so, what?
- When do you speak with intentionality & power? When do you speak without intentionality & power? What are the patterns of these times?
- How does intentional speech relate to Integrity? Consider the step of ‘word as self’?
- When is asking for your 100% a demand, and when is it a request? What’s the difference and how will you know?
- Considering intentional speech tools, integrity, emotional literacy, YSL, and other language-related philosophies, articulate a possibility for yourself as you want to relate to language.
- Does speaking ‘your mind’ (referring to an unfiltered, natural speech) make your language more or less authentic?
- What is more important to you – how you say it or what you say? Why?
- Is communication/language a skill or a talent? Can it be developed? Can it be scaffolded? How?
- How did your relationship to language develop as your grew older? What steered it to where it is now?