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How to be Truthful Without Being Hurtful

Some questions from one spouse to another are nearly impossible to answer without causing heartache. For example, what is a husband to say when his wife asks, "Does this red dress make me look fat?" A good-hearted husband longs to be truthful without being hurtful, but that isn't an easy rope to walk on. Most men feel totally trapped by this question, because they have learned, perhaps the hard way, that saying nothing or saying "I don't know" actually means "you look fat."

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Do We Expect Others to Be Truthful With Us, As We Are With Them?

My friend Sam Ericsson, who graduated from Harvard Law School and founded Advocates International, was instrumental in helping various nations draft new constitutions, especially those countries that formed after the Soviet Union gave them their independence. Sam told me that his chief point of advocacy with the leaders of these countries seeking his legal counsel was to create laws based on the Golden Rule. Sam conveyed that there is no better way to establish just laws than by doing to others what you would want done to you in the same situation. Sam shared with me that such laws are not difficult to figure out when the Golden Rule is acted on honestly with good will. If a person or a nation wants to know what is right, they can discover it by applying the Golden Rule.

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We Must Think Before We Speak

During the 2016 NBA Finals, a player’s wife, understandably hurting and upset for her husband who had just been ejected from a game, fired out a tweet from her seat in the arena accusing the NBA of being rigged and out to get her husband for the sake of ratings. An hour and a half later, she deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage had already been done. With 450,000 followers on Twitter, she had already seen her unfortunate tweet retweeted thousands of times, and the backlash had begun.

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Three Questions to Filter Your Words With

A filter is any device that removes unwanted material. For example, an oil filter for a car lets the good oil pass through while blocking the crud and removing impurities. The muck and guck are detrimental to the engine and undermine the effectiveness of the motor. Some of us need a filter on our speech when we communicate. When we lack a filter we undermine our effectiveness in communicating with people, whether those are family and friends, coworkers and neighbors, or acquaintances and strangers.

What is this filter? It consists of asking three questions before communicating in person, over the phone, or in writing.

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