Be impeccable with your word. I love this phrase. Don Miguel Ruiz, who wrote the incredible book The Four Agreements, thought that being impeccable with your word was so important that he designated it as the first of the four agreements. (The other three are don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.)
What does it mean to “be impeccable with your word”? From the book:
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
Let’s break it down, now!
Speak with integrity
I interpret this as saying what you know to be true, and nothing else. Don’t deal in half-truths, lies, or tricky answers. Integrity is about having strong moral principles, and really believing in what you’re saying. Otherwise, why bother speaking? Keeping your speech clean and honest keeps your life simple and happy.
Say only what you mean
Obviously, this means “don’t lie”, but it’s bigger than that. I interpret this as being assertive with your speech. Don’t be passive-aggressive or agree to things that piss you off. Don’t say YES when you actually mean NO. No is a complete sentence!
Finally, don’t say yes and then change your mind and back out later. Nothing is worse for your reputation. Instead, think carefully about whether you have the bandwidth to really take on this or that project. Thoughtful consideration can save you — and everyone around you — a whole lot of grief down the road.
Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others
This might be one of the most difficult things to do consistently. A lot of us incorporate self-deprecating humour, false modesty, or outright self-loathing as a part of our everyday life. Even more commonplace is the act of gossip, and it’s awful. I quit reading tabloids years ago — and I have never regretted it — but I have to admit that I do, sometimes, talk about other people. I’ve noticed that I gossip about others when I am feeling bad about myself, and that is no coincidence.
Whatever other people are doing with their lives is none of your business. You don’t need to know, and you don’t need to compare notes with your friends. Gossip encourages judgement, and that only makes us harder on ourselves.
Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love
Truth time: the original title of this post was “Don’t Be A Flake”. Few things make me crazier than people who say yes, then turn around and say no, especially in a professional setting, and that situation is exactly what prompted me to write this. But using that as my title isn’t me using my word in the direction of truth and love.
I could have gone on a tirade, but instead I chose to write something helpful. This is using your word in the direction of truth and love: making the choice to be positive, despite negative stimulus. It isn’t always easy, but it feels better than being critical.
“Regardless of what language you speak, your intent manifests through the word. What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will all be manifested through the word.” (Don Miguel Ruiz)
But wait, how does that all tie into studded leather jackets, rainbow hair and punk rock? You might be surprised to hear this, but nothing sums up Don Miguel Ruiz’s concept better than this song by Lunachicks!
How could you be more impeccable with your word today?
Photo by Made U Look.