“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” What happens when we say something “nice” about a person who isn’t present? Is this gossip?
Nearly ten years ago I read a book by Jean Smith called “The Beginner’s Guide to Walking the Eightfold Path.” This refers to Buddhist principles of living and was a huge influence on my life. Reading about “Right Livelihood” inspired me to explore what became a path of Chinese Medicine. Reading about “Right Speech” challenged me in ways I think of almost daily.
I remember Jean Smith pointing out that the even when saying something “nice,” if you’re speaking about someone in the third person you may need to consider if it is “Right Speech.”
For one thing, what is “nice” is subjective. What you value and intend as a compliment may be an adversity or unkindness to someone else.
It’s also possible that pointing out something special about a third person who isn’t in your conversation can diminish the connection to the person you’re with.
I invite you to an experiment: to avoid speaking about someone who isn’t present. That might make your story about a canoe trip a little peculiar but it focuses in on your experience and what you have to share with your particular, current company. It can be difficult. Sometimes nonsensical sentences start – it’s an experiment! Then maybe an ongoing practice.