When should we keep our two cents in our pocket?

We’ve all heard the expression to “put in my two cents’ worth”. This phrase began in England, where it was originally “to put in my two-penny worth”. Essentially, it means to offer one’s opinion….. usually without being asked.


The use of the small monetary denomination – two pennies, two cents – represents something of low value.


In a sense, it is a way of deprecating the comment that is to follow.


The preface could be considered a humble way of offering your opinion, or it could signal a cheap or flippant thought that’s about to be let loose.


I wonder, do we all too readily offer our ‘opinion’ to others in a throwaway, thoughtless fashion.


We often talk about the importance of mindfulness – the ability to focus our awareness on the present moment – in our everyday lives. But what about in our conversations? What about when we want to offer our two cents worth……. After all, what I have to say is really important.


Mindful communication means listening with compassion, full attention and without judgement. It also means speaking in a thoughtful, non-judgemental and empathetic way.


Not sure if our two cents fits in here……


What about us as leaders. Do we practice an approach of mindful communication or do we offer our two cents to our team and organisation?


What might some research offer……


According to a Gallup study, 87 per cent of employees worldwide report disengagement at work. Researchers said part of the problem was that companies spent too much time measuring employee engagement instead of improving it. In other words, mindful communication is critical to strong, enduring business relationships. In fact, research has found that cultivating a corporate culture of mindfulness significantly improves focus, the ability to manage stress and the way employees work together.


When we put in our two cents’ worth, it can be reactionary, off-the-cuff and with little thought. Yet there is much power vested in our words. Most religious texts talk about the power of the tongue.


In the Bible, James warns us to tame our tongues as our harsh words can act like poison.


Buddha offers, “If you propose to speak always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind”

The Quran states,” …speak a good word or remain silent”.

When we speak, our thoughts are manifested into the world.

Our mouth, our voice, is like the rudder on a ship – it steers the whole vessel.

Where do you want to your ship to go?

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Benjamin Franklin
Two cents model

Before we make a comment, we need to consider its impact. We need a set of criteria to guide our decision whether to add our two cents, or not.


Before you speak, I suggest asking yourself the following:

  • What value does this comment add?
  • Who does this comment serve?
  • How does this comment serve?
  • Is this comment timely?


Do your answers fall to the positive side of the ledger or the negative? Does the comment reflect that this is a valuable contribution or not. Our words can undo the value we create.


Each time we are flippant with our words, we make a small withdrawal from the bank of respect the other person has for us. For a new connection you start in deficit, not helpful.


People may take what we say a little less seriously. And then, when we truly do need to speak up about an issue, the person’s ‘reserves’ are low and what we say fails to make an impact.


If we save our two cents, over time we get something more valuable: respect. We can offer a comment with a far greater denomination backing it. My thought is for the other person to be richer for our comments.


We want to build up and enable them rather than detract and destroy. We want to invest into their lives not make withdrawals.


The challenge for us all, the next time you want to throw your two cents on the table, ask yourself: Is it useful? Is it mindful? Does it create value? Or should I keep the coins in my pocket?


Consider saving your two cents until you have a $5, $10 or $100 comment worth offering……I know which one I would rather receive, how about you?

Be kind, be well, be true, be you.

Andrew Deering
Organisational Capability Expert
Coach | Facilitator | Author of Creating the SHIFT

0459 806 046

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