If you are like me, and love to express yourself with the most possible words, then you have probably struggled a few times to narrow your thoughts right down to about 140 words or less, to enable you post a comment on to your twitter handle (that’s if you are on Twitter). I have often felt that 140 words doesn’t even begin to capture the introductory remarks to my update of “what’s happening”, much less reflect the gist of the entire story. But that’s just it. Twitter isn’t meant to capture the entirety of the story. It is meant to highlight words and catchy phrases that draws the reader in, and inspires you, makes you reflect or lead you to do more research, all in 140 words or less. I must confess, since joining Twitter a few months ago, I have managed to cut down my sometimes verbose statements into short and precise words, that capture my imagination and what I am trying to say, without losing the meaning or impact. While it has been a struggle at times, I definitely see it as a challenge because it teaches you to exercise the use of other words (which you may not necessarily use often) that have fewer alphabets, but still conveys the message of what you are trying to say.
Thinking about twitter and its limited word allowance, takes me back to my English literature days, in High school. As part of our scheduled class work, we often had to summarise a story, or parts of it, within a given word count. To say that I struggled with this task is an understatement, given my propensity for talking and writing. However, I eventually got the hang of it and realised that I did not need to narrate every piece of information detailed in the story. What was actually needed was the gist or the most poignant part of the story.
In the real world, I have found that many times in life, we say way too much. It almost seems like we strive to be personal advisors and psychologists, even when we haven’t been extended that role. If someone doesn’t ask for your opinion about their own relationship, weight, career etc, then don’t offer advice that is not required. How does it concern you if the person is single or married? Or if the person has gained weight or lost. Or better yet, how does their weight or relationship status affect the price of rice in China? It always baffles me when I hear someone say to someone else,“Oh, you have gained weight”. Don’t you think the person knows they have put on some weight? At the end of the day, they are the ones living in their own bodies, not you, so I’m pretty sure they will notice before you ever could that their pants (trousers) aren’t fitting quite so well. And even when advice is required or asked of you, do it in a tasteful way, and be kind about it. It is not what you say, but how you say it, that gets across to people. You can offer the most constructive advice known to man, but if it comes across in a mean, condescending and arrogant manner, be rest assured that the person on the receiving end of that information will not listen to a word you have to say. But if the same information is extended in the spirit of love, tenderness and kindness, then even the most hardened of souls’ will lend you a listening ear.
In the words of Sufi, before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “is it true? At the second ask, “is it necessary?” At the third gate ask “is it kind”. If this is done consistently, I’m pretty sure that by the end of the third self-imposed check, you would have scaled down your words dramatically.
As a personal challenge, try to say the most with the least words. In your everyday conversations with friends and family, try to say all you need to say in 140 words or less and see the difference it makes. After all, life teaches us that we sometimes need to say the most with just a few words.