These two simple questions will save you a lot of headache.
Ask them before you speak. Before you click send. Before you act.
1. Is it kind?
2. Is it necessary?
I find myself rethinking things quite a bit when I take the couple seconds to pose these two questions. In business and in personal relationships.
(This is my secret parenting tip too - I use it on my kids constantly).
Here's an example when I saved myself from myself by asking these questions. I was about to send an email out of exasperation to a fairly high up in my company complaining about one of our vendors. My first sentence was the complaint I felt I had the right to voice. My second sentence was the solution, me offering to do the work within my department rather than at this vendor.
I had my finger on the mouse, luckily I stopped. Was what I typed kind? Umm, not if you were the vendor it wasn't. Was what I typed necessary? Offering to help, yes; throwing mud at the vendor, no.
This fairly high up co-worker knows this vendor has problems. He didn't need me to point it out. I had nothing to gain by adding to the mud pile. What this fairly high upper needed was my offer to help. Only that.
That was kind. That was necessary.
I deleted sentence one, clicked send on sentence two.