Right Speech and Door-Slamming

A wooden door to a crumbling, sunny building.
Photo by mhobl via Creative Commons on Flickr.

There’s a concept in Buddhism called “right speech.” It involves being truthful, while minimizing the pain your words cause others. There’s good info on this and other Buddhist ethical concepts here.

The flip side of “right speech” is “right listening.” Here, Beth Roth discusses how she and her teenage son have negotiated their increasingly difficult communication.

In the Buddhist view, speech can be ethical or unethical. “Right speech” is supposed to share truth, be timed appropriately, and be given with a warm intention. This can be hard when we’re telling someone about something they’ve done that upsets us.

I struggle with letting small annoyances or minorly hurt feelings accumulate, and then blowing up at someone when the pressure has built up too much. This isn’t healthy, and I’m working on finding better ways to express when I’m feeling frustrated, or when something that someone said or did isn’t sitting right with me.

Otherwise, these feelings fester. It’s like carrying a slow-burning acid-filled coal deep in my gut. Eventually it’s going to turn into hot bile and spew out.

My cousin, who like me is a Myers-Briggs INFJ, says that those with our personality type are prone to “door-slamming.” We’re mostly serene, let a lot of stuff slide that we don’t like—and then, when someone crosses a line with us, that’s it. Friendship over.

I’m not proud of that tendency, but I do see it in myself.

A teacher I was working with recently has elements of his instructional style that I take issue with. After several months of being aware of this, I finally broached the subject. The conversation went badly—we were both upset, and I didn’t feel that he heard what I was saying.

It’s unclear if I’ll return to his class, even though there was much in it to enjoy and value. At this point, I don’t feel trust or comfort with him, so I’ll probably never go back. I door-slammed.

Do you ever slam doors? When it is effective and healthy, and when it is not?

Can “right speech” (and “right listening”) help prevent door-slamming?