Think Before You Speak

communication personal growth Nov 17, 2022

We've all been there. You're in a heated discussion with someone, and before you know it, you've said something you regret. Maybe you lashed out at them or made a hurtful comment. Whatever it is, now you have to deal with the consequences. Words are powerful and can build up or tear down relationships. That's why it's so important to think before we speak.

It's effortless to say what we want.

Conversations with people take place every day. Unfortunately, we often speak out whatever is in our minds, which may create serious consequences. Honesty is good, but it can work differently when applied to what we say to others. People will react differently to what you speak, and the truth can hurt sometimes. There are several reasons why you may want to think first before talking about something.

  • Your reputation may suffer if you say something that can make people think badly of you. You may say something out of character or sensitive that others may not take too kindly to hear.
  • Your words can be a reflection of your personality and character. People can judge you for what you say, and your first impressions can create a lasting effect on people's minds, and others may think you are this kind of person just from a single instance of speaking with them.
  • The words that you say to others can affect your relationships with people. For example, speaking hurtful words can make people move away from you, while expressions of praise and encouragement can make them feel closer to you and treat you better.
  • Without thinking carefully before you speak, you might utter something impulsive out of your emotions, which you may regret later after people start treating you differently because of what you have said.

Words can be powerful. They can affect how others think and act, especially if others seriously take what you say. What's more, it can be challenging to take back what we say, even if we do apologize, as the first impression that we leave on people from what we say can have a lasting effect. So as much as possible, we must watch what we say and think carefully before we say something.

Thinking before speaking

Developing awareness is the key to holding back before speaking. It is easy to lose focus and say whatever we want, maybe because we want to immediately return a reply or fill the void left by the absence of words uttered by any person. Some effort is required to make it a habit to think before you speak, and there are some pointers you can follow to develop it.

1. Follow the THINK acronym

According to this article from masterclass.com, there is one good acronym that you can use as a mnemonic device to help you speak the right words. The acronym THINK stands for "true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind." This means that if what you are about to say falls in line with these five words, then you can say what you want to others. Otherwise, it's better to keep silent if you are going to lie, say something that will negatively affect the worth of others, or say anything that isn't beneficial or necessary that will only hurt people.

2. Learn to listen

Listening well to others will help create appropriate replies and gives us time to think about what we should say. When we listen to someone, we better understand what the person is talking about, and we may even get an idea of their personality and beliefs based on how they say their words. And when we truly understand what others say, we can reply appropriately based on what they say instead of crafting a hasty response. When someone speaks, it is also a chance for us to think carefully about what we will say next when it's our turn to speak. We should try to hone our listening skills as it is beneficial in establishing proper communication between people and ensuring we say the right words to someone.

3. Ask for a few seconds to think about what you will say

Sometimes, crafting an immediate response to someone during a conversation can be challenging. We might run out of ideas because we can't fully understand what somebody else is saying, or perhaps we are not listening well. If you find yourself uttering interjections like "um" or "ah," it may be better to ask the person you are talking with to give you time to think before you speak. People can be considerate and may not be rushing you for a reply. It's good to think carefully about what you are going to say instead of uttering something for the sake of replying or having something to say.

4. Seek clarification

We may speak about something that can make people angry or react differently toward us because we don't fully understand what we are talking about. The same thing can also happen when responding to others if it is not fully clear to us what another person is talking about. Therefore, gaining more knowledge about something is essential to crafting appropriate responses and ensuring we know what we are talking about with others. If what others are talking about is unclear, ask politely if they can clarify what they are saying so you can make a proper reply.

5. Pick your words carefully

People will react differently to what others say depending on their beliefs and values in life. It is essential to consider the cultural background and niche a person belongs to so we can choose the words we use when speaking to them. Comments deemed offensive by others should be avoided, as well as anything that may trigger others, such as talking about a sensitive topic like politics or religion. Slang and swear words should be used with caution, as some people may not take it too kindly to hear such words from you.

6. Eliminate distractions

If you don't want to blunder yourself by uttering something stupid or ignorant, listening intently to others is good practice to ensure we understand what's being talked about and what others are saying to us. To ensure we are listening well, we must eliminate any distractions that can take us off course from the conversation. Stop listening to music in one of your ears or using your phone while somebody is speaking to you. This way, you can focus on the conversation and have time to think about what words should come from your mouth. You can avoid putting yourself to shame by saying something inappropriate, which can happen if you are distracted while talking with someone.

What we say can be more powerful than we think.

A simple rule to remember when speaking to others about something is this: if what you are about to say will only hurt people's feelings and won't bring anything good, especially if you are fabricating lies or don't know what you are saying, it's better to remain silent. An exception can be truths others deserve to know, which can be painful to hear for others but is necessary to help them move on and grow as individuals. Awareness about what we say and consideration for other people's feelings are essential to help us pause before we talk about something. It can take a while before it becomes a habit to think before you speak. Once it does, we can communicate better with most people to get our point across and say something that can benefit and strengthen our relationships with others.

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