Speak Simply

Open the book to the page of wisdom and count the words. Are they many or few? What else can you say of them? Are they noisy, full of air? Or trim, compact, containing just the meaning they intend to deliver—nothing more nor less?

You can see that, in the ways of the wise, less is often more. This is because we spend too much time imagining that things are important when they are not, and in the process we obfuscate the things of real value in our lives and in our conversations.

It is a relief to pare down unnecessary words. When you speak more simply, you travel with a lighter sack and you get the chance to communicate the essence of the ideas on your mind and in your heart. When you talk too much, you get carried away by the sound of things, and forget the sense. It is an excusable fault, but it weighs you down and, after a while, tires you out.

The solution is simple:

When obliged to speak your mind, use the words that come first to your heart. If you pay more attention to the center of things (that is, the heart, rather than the mind), you will find yourself speaking with a new authority. Not a haughty one, or unapproachable; neither of these is what we are after. Instead, you will speak with the authority of one who says (or tries to say) only what she judges to be real and true, and your words will feel more solid, more precise. After a while, you will notice that you have come closer to describing your thoughts than when you used twice the number of words to get you there.

In the end, we all have our characteristic styles and rhythms. It is not for everyone to take the austerest path. Goodness forbid! Your manner of expression must be consistent with who you are! But there is always a little room for us to be quieter and to discover the riches that are waiting for us between the commas and—–gasps of air.