Thinking Before speaking
Everyone has experienced a haunting moment when they have said just a word too many. Every person has felt the shame of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is human to make these errors, but they still need attention and correction. Learning how to think before you speak is an acquired skill that needs time to develop correctly. Fortunately, you can get better at picking your words today. How can someone develop good habits promoting carefully thought-out speech?
1. Listen to Learn Something About the Other Person. Don’t Listen to Figure Out What You Should Say Next.
The next time you are involved in a meeting, a conversation, or even an argument, stay calm and try to use the opportunity to learn what you can about the person speaking to you. When it is your turn to talk, you will be naturally engaged enough to say something meaningful and appropriate. A good speech can only begin with excellent listening skills. Try hard not to listen just so you can offer your own opinion as fast as possible.
2. Know What Topics Are Sensitive Issues to Other People.
When you are talking to someone, you will need to know what discussion topics require particular sensitivity. Sensitive topics don’t always need to be avoided, but they certainly don’t need to be continuously addressed. When they are brought up in conversation, special care is necessary. Try to focus the majority of your conversation around the weather, good food, nice restaurants to visit sometime, or hobbies. Try not to plunge too eagerly into money-related matters, politics, sex, or religion. Be somewhat careful when you talk about family matters; those who grew up in difficult circumstances or those who recently buried a family member may find family matters hard to discuss.
3. Know Your Own Triggers.
It’s normal for people to feel unusual stress when it comes to certain topics. To handle your triggers before you speak, think about what discussion topics make your heart jump. Perhaps you are not one of those people who like to reminisce about their childhood. It could be that you get uneasy about discussions related to health or sickness. Maybe you are dealing with an awful boss or a season of unemployment, and just talking about work makes you break out into a sweat. To gain a more in-depth control of your speech, make a list of topics that make you anxious, and consider how to talk through them. You may even want to figure out ways to change the subject.
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another” – Napoleon Hill
4. Don’t Assume the Worst.
Suppose your spouse offhandedly mentions that they are always under pressure from work and housework obligations. Suddenly, you start feeling your blood pressure rise. What could they mean by that? Are they saying you don’t do enough to lighten the load? You feel a desire to argue that you are helping out as much as you possibly can.
Instead of launching into a defense, try instead to hear the speaker’s feelings. Likely, they don’t want to accuse you or put you on the spot. Perhaps they are just feeling pressured and need to vent. Think before you speak in a way that puts the other person on high alert. They may just need your attention and compassion.
5. Become Discreet and Trustworthy.
This is a hard trait to develop. Few people give out gold medals for qualities like dependability or discretion, so it is not easy for people to feel motivated to keep secrets. Furthermore, sharing a choice tidbit of gossip can feel great. Gossiping can make you feel relevant and interesting. If you feel left out from a circle or a work culture, gossip may even look like the ticket to inclusion. However, a little gossip can completely wreck any trust built up over time. Before you share an embarrassing story involving an acquaintance or a loved one, stop yourself for a second to think: if it were me, would I want to be talked about in this way? You don’t want to deal with the repercussions of a hurt person confronting you about your bad behavior.
6. Brush Up on Cultural Differences.
Making some mistakes while learning about a new environment or culture is normal. Many people will forgive innocent misunderstandings. Still, it may be useful for you to read up on countries you may visit in the future. If you are going to a house with people from a different culture, consider where they came from and how to understand them as best you can. This will help you adjust your speech accordingly. In some cultures, speaking quietly is particularly important. Knowing what is expected in other countries will prevent embarrassment and wounded feelings.
7. Be Gentle with Yourself and Apologize When Necessary
Nobody is perfect. You will make mistakes because you are human. Even so, it is a good idea to say that you are sorry when you make errors. If you simply tripped over your words, a brief and light “sorry” may be just enough to fix the issue. If you have become the occasion of an offense, you will need to be more earnest and serious. Don’t be flippant. Do not say, “I am sorry you felt bad.” This makes the other person feel trivialized for reacting to your mistake. Take full ownership for what you said. Try something like “I ought not to have said _. I am sorry for what I said earlier.” This shows sincerity and a sense of personal responsibility. Be sure to make eye contact and speak clearly. Do not continue to address your motivations behind your offense, as this will dilute the strength of your apology.
Remember that speaking well is a skill that can be learned. It does not come naturally to many, but it can be developed by anyone willing to improve. Do not expect instant change. However, a month of effort may bring impressive results.