“Right Speech” is a part of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.
Ancient Buddhist texts typically define it as a series of four or five abstentions. For example:
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
Oren Jay Sofer breaks it down in a way I find particularly helpful — first in the traditional four types of speech to refrain from, followed by their parallel four types of speech to cultivate.
- False speech
- Divisive speech
- Malicious, harsh speech
- Idle, useless speech
Cultivate speech that is:
- Kind (gentle, good-will)
- Timely (context-sensitive)