How to think before you speak: 6 key steps

You might be inclined to believe that your actions speak louder than your words, but when it comes to how you represent yourself with your words and speech, how you come across to other people is really about what and how you say it.

This is also true when what you say doesn’t align with what you do, and it can be difficult to come back from the things you said, whether you meant to or not.

It’s important to stop and think about what you are going to say so that you can ensure your words are understood as you intend them.

Let’s look at why it’s important and why you need to pay more attention to what and how you speak.

Why you need to think before you speak

1) Being careful with your words allows you to grab opportunities and get ahead in life

If you don’t think that what you say plays an important role in your life, think about the last time you missed an opportunity because you didn’t speak up, or when you didn’t get a job because of something you said that made the company think you weren’t the right person for the job.

Subscribers to the Harvard Business Review rated “the ability to communicate” as the most important factor in making an executive “promotable”. This was voted ahead of ambition or capacity for hard work.

Your speech really can have a dramatic impact on your life and your success.

There are many times in life where the outcome will depend on what you say and how you say it.

After all, your words and how you say those words is the greatest tool people who in perceiving who you are.

In a job interview if you say things that are careless and thoughtless you won’t present the version of yourself and you’ll be less likely to get the job.

If you always say what’s your mind you’ll likely offend other people which can hurt your ability to make new connections.

In short, you’ll limit your ability to get ahead.

Unfortunately, not everything is based purely on results when comes to a lot of occupations. It’s also based on how you present your ideas and how you verbalize your results.

2) Human beings are social beings – it’s important to know how to communicate effectively

Not only is what you say important but how you say it.

For instance, if you give someone a compliment, but do it in a sarcastic tone, it won’t be received well and may lead the receiver to believe you are being insincere, even if you really did mean it.

Sometimes, all we have are the words we use when it comes to communication.

Human beings are social beings and having the ability to form solid connections is crucial to living a fulfilling life.

In fact, an 80-year Harvard study on happiness found that one of the most crucial factors to human happiness is our relationships.

Yet, with so much of our conversations happening online and through text messages these days, it can be easy to be misunderstood.

Relationships can fall apart because of these misunderstandings, but they are so common in our written language that we don’t take them into consideration or pay attention to them the same way that our verbal language does.

This can seriously affect our social life and our connections.

It’s important to be able to clearly convey a message as well as listen. And the only way you’re going to be able to do that is to think before you speak.

When we’re not careful with what we say, we can say one thing and the other person hears something else. That tends to happen when you’re not clear and concise with your speech.

3) When we speak before we think, we say things we regret and then people get hurt

If you’ve ever sent an angry email or text to “tell someone off” and regretted it, then you know how important your words really are in life.

Life is rushing by us at the speed of light and we are all vying for position in this world. Because of this, we are talking and writing more than ever. We want to be seen.

But that need causes us to say things we don’t mean, talk without thinking, and respond faster than we should.

What’s more, if you need additional evidence that what you say is important, just think about the last time someone said something means to you and how it made you feel.

Did you walk around wondering why they said that or what brought on their mean-spirited response? Did you wonder what you did to cause them to say such mean things?

Often, it’s that you didn’t do anything at all, but that the person you were talking to wasn’t thinking about what they were saying at all; people just blurt out the first thing that comes to their minds. It’s a tough habit to beat.

4) The words you use shape your mind

Many of us naturally use negative language in life, even when we talk to ourselves. But this could be having a more dramatic impact on your life than you think.

According to research, our subconscious interprets what we say very literally.

When your words are consistently negative, judgmental, bitter or harsh, your mindset about the world begins to skew towards that direction.

It doesn’t take long to always focus on the negative aspects of life.

Words are the main way humans communicate with the world, so of course, they are bound to have a huge effect on the way you perceive the world.

However, before you throw in the white tale, neuroscience has discovered that we have the ability to change our brains with ongoing practice on how we use our speech.

How to think before you speak

In order to think before you speak, you first need to take responsibility for the fact that you can actually control your brain and your thoughts.

Once you decide that you want to make a change in the way you communicate, you can start to pay attention to what you are saying and how you are saying.

There are several methods that you can use, but the most tried and true method of improving your communication skills by thinking before you speak is to use the THANKS Technique.

Put simply, is what you are about to say true, helpful, affirming, necessary, kind and sincere? If the things you are saying are not aligning with this mantra, it might be time to reconsider how you interact with others.

Use the THANKS Technique to Always Say the Right Thing

If you are like most people, you’ve felt the sting of having said the wrong thing to the wrong person, at the wrong time.

It’s a situation where you wish you could crawl under a rock and hide. If you’ve ever thought, “I wish I hadn’t said that” after a conversation or if you’ve thought, “I wish I had said something different,” the THANKS Technique could help you in the future.

You can be that person who always says the right thing with just a few seconds to stop and think before you speak.

It’s a simple process that many people ignore, but it can be a game-changer in your communication skills and we’re going to teach it to you.

Here are the 6 questions you need to ask yourself before you say or write anything:

1) Is what you are going to say true?

It might be an odd place to start in conversation: asking yourself if what you are going to say is true, but unless you have it on good authority that the information you are saying is 100%, you should stop and think about it for a minute.

Often, we gather information from other people on a daily basis without even questioning it, so when we finally sit down to think about what we’ve heard, we find inconsistencies and errors.

Before you say something to someone else, make sure it’s true. It avoids issues down the road.

2) Is what you are going to say helpful?

You also need to stop and think whether or not the information you are conveying is going to help the person you are talking to.

In some cases, we just talk without thinking about the consequences of our words, but if you are going to say something hurtful, it might be best to say nothing at all.

If you feel like what you are going to say might make someone feel bad about themselves or their lives, it might be best to keep it to yourself.

3) Is what you are going to say affirming for the other person?

Affirmation is not about paying someone some kind words, it’s about letting the other people know that you are listening and caring about what they are saying.

So how do you do that with your own words? Ask questions, repeat what they say, give them the space to talk, and use confirmation such as “tell me more” when you are talking to them.

Affirming another person in conversation goes a long way to make them feel like you are a good conversationalist and it keeps you out of trouble in your communication skills.

4) Is what you are going to say necessary?

Sometimes we say things that don’t add to the conversation, but because we want to be in the spotlight it’s easier to just keep talking than to stop and think about what we are really saying.

What’s more, because humans want to be in the spotlight so much, we often undermine others around us with poor choices of words, going so far as to make fun of them in some cases.

If you are trying to improve your communication skills and want to be a great conversationalist, never say things just for the sake of saying them. Always have a reason.

5) Is what you are going to say kind?

It’s a good idea to be kind to people when you are talking to them because you never know where they are coming from or what they’ve been through.

A part of being kind is not to make assumptions about other people and don’t accuse people of being a certain way.

Always ask questions and be careful of how you phrase things so that you don’t offend people.

It might seem like a lot of work to monitor your conversations, but it’s worth it to be known as someone who cares and really listens.

6) Is what you are going to say sincere?

Sincerity is often overlooked because we feel like we should be saying nice things to people, even if we don’t mean it.

Why we do this is unclear, but we continue to say things to people without realizing that we don’t really mean it, or we turn around and contradict our compliments because we don’t really mean what we say.

If you want to improve your conversations, connections with people and communication skills try using the THANKS Technique and take a minute to think about how you are going to proceed. It really does work.

In Conclusion

It’s not the end of the world if your communication skills aren’t up to snuff, but there’s no shame in wanting to improve how you show up in the world.

Thinking before you speak means that you are showing others that you are considerate and respectful.

And if you open your mouth and put your shoe in it, you can’t always recant. You might offer some apology to your friend or family member if you say something that doesn’t sit right with them, but sometimes that isn’t enough.

Even though you aren’t responsible for how they engage with your words, you are responsible for the words that come out of your mouth and if you’ve said something that is untrue, hurtful, unnecessary, unkind or insincere, offer another way of saying what you are saying.

In the end, at least you can rest easy knowing that you tried to make things right.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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