With great freedom of speech, comes great responsibility

Our thoughts and words can have a significant impact on ourselves and others. We should use them with intention and caution. 

This is because human minds are fickle and easily programmable. Every thought you have in your head can change how you think, act, live, and feel. Everything we say can program each other and societies at large. We can easily fool ourselves and others into bad emotions, actions, and discord. People and organizations with powerful voices or large audiences can do even more damage

We often indulge in peddling nonsense, untruths or half-truths, desires, hyperbole, careless speculation, gossip, mean-spirited or negative talk. This happens in our own heads, in casual conversations with others, at work, on the internet, and in media.    

We mostly do this unconsciously, because that's how our minds seem to work by default and that's what we have learned from everyone around us. Sometimes we do it intentionally for fun, to earn social currency, or for some other gains. With the internet's engagement-based attention model and thought bubbles, this has only snowballed. 

There is certainly a ton of value in expressing ourselves. It's fun, it develops thoughts, it spreads ideas, and it inspires action. There is also value in expressing half-baked and controversial thoughts as they can get built up, molded, or discredited by more people.  

But given the power it has, it's better for ourselves and others if we are more intentional. 

Intentional thinking and speaking 

A simple trick is to run anything we are dwelling on or planning to say by these filters: 

  1. Is it beneficial and aligned with your values? Are you thinking and saying it in a productive and engaging way?  If you are saying it as a joke or for fun, call that out unless it's obvious in context or expression. 
  2. Is it true, the full truth, and nothing but the truth? If it's an opinion or if you are unsure, convey your intentions, logic, and holes, along with the opinion so others can shape it, question it or choose to ignore it. 
These filters will quieten you or slow you down initially (like how Obama speaks). But your thoughts and words will be more positive and impactful. 

We are going to make mistakes. When we do, admit that as emphatically as we peddled the original thing. Reflect on why we said it and how we can avoid the pattern in the future. 

Also, we should be wary of blindly accepting what we hear and read, and be intentional about what we expose ourselves to. They say it from their own narrow point of view, understanding, experiences, or agenda. Ask them about their intention and logic. Then think critically and take what we want from it.