It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.” -Buddha
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start wars or create peace.
Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person’s feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all).
Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak in a friendly manner, warm-heartedly, and gently and to talk only when necessary. I guess my Grandmother set a pretty good ethical standard when she admonished me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It is the height of good manners to always put the other person first. And what could be more Buddhist?