Whether out of anger, out of being shy, or due to an inability to analyze and process words before blurting them out; you let yourself and the people around you down when you do not think before you speak.
Apart from aging, there are a few things in life that cannot be reversed, and words spoken out cannot be unspoken no matter the take-backs. The worst part is when we speak before thinking it most often does not portray how we truly feel. Those receiving the words end up misunderstanding us and we usually end up feeling ravaged with regret.
“The wise person has long ears and a short tongue.”
What Makes Us Speak Before Thinking?
There are a series of reasons why we might speak before thinking. While some are unintentional some are undeniably intentional. Both have the same effect on you the speaker and the listener. Sometimes, the harder we try to explain the error made, the deeper we regret it.
Here are a few reasons why a person might speak before thinking:
- Impatience: The need of wanting to make our voice quickly heard without processing the words first. This happens especially when trying to make a point against an opposing party. Or when trying to end an odd silence and sometimes out of anxiety.
- Anger: When in a heated argument, we aim to say something that makes the other party feel our wrath or feel subdued. In both cases, we often regret our actions and words.
It takes a particular skill and a level of maturity to remain calm when angry and act without throwing caution to the wind. As a rule of thumb, do not say what you cannot rectify, especially to loved ones.
- Assumption: This happens when we have read the wrong meanings to someone else’s actions or words. If this happens and we respond to the misunderstood message, we will inevitably say what we don’t or shouldn’t mean.
- Personality: By this, I am referring to the introverts and the extroverts. Introverts are known for taking in situations before speaking or after series of thoughts. On the other hand, extroverts are known to either speak while thinking or just blaring think out loud.
- Others: There are a whole lot of other reasons a person can speak before thinking, such as psychological disorders, illness, and diseases. An example of this would be Pressured Speech Disorder which sometimes expresses its self as a compulsive urge to talk in a rapid speech pattern.
“Talk with your mind before you talk with your tongue.”
Why We Need To Think Before Speaking
For starters, our first impression counts a lot. Have you met someone for the first time and loved the way they looked, their physic or their carriage, then the person utters some words, and immediately you are offended or taken aback at their low reasoning? That is a problem of ‘speaking before thinking’.
Communication is a two-way street, there has to be a sender and a receiver of the message. When a message is sent by the sender and it is received and appropriately analyzed by the receiver, the communication link was successful.
Take an example of parenting and their kids. Children take the words of adults very literally, especially those of their family members. As a parent you need to appropriately deliver your words to our kids as you can bet they would analyze it to the letter.
I have come to find out that kids do not forget the words their loved ones say to them. A worse scenario would be if they sense the words to be a dent in the love you the parent has for them or when they assume it to be a shot fired at their self-esteem, it usually sticks.
During a hangout, a friend once confided in me about how she found it hard to forgive her mother. She said her mom once called her a waste. She has been trying for 25 years to forget and forgive but it seemed impossible to her as those words hunted her for most of her teenage years.
Her only solace was that she believes her mom said it out of anger. But, that’s the problem, kids and adults alike listen to the words we speak and not our countenance so we need to talk wisely.
Words are powerful; they define us and make our thoughts audible. We have heard of people committing suicide because of negative words spoken to them from friends and family.
Take a cue from public speakers, politicians, lawyers, teachers, sales professionals, and motivators. They seem to have mastered the art of thinking and pondering before speaking.
“The tongue like a sharp knife kills without drawing blood.”–Buddha
How To Think Before You Speak: 5 Easy Steps
One very powerful muscle in the human body is the tongue and a simple way to control it is to first apply the T.H.I.N.K technique to your thoughts before speaking.
Now let me explain:
T: Is it true? There are words that we might have heard from external sources about a person that makes conclude about the said person. This then affects the words we use when speaking to them.
While we might not tell a bold faced lie it does not change the fact that what we have heard might not be true, it might be a partial lie or a good exaggeration or just be part of the person’s trivial past.
So, if you are not entirely sure of the picture you are about to create with your words, it is better to not paint it at all with misleading information.
H: Is it helpful? Before you speak, imagine clicking a mental ‘pause’ button. Take a deep breath, and decipher exactly what importance your words will be when spoken. It is definitely not helpful if it is not going to be of any use to you or the person you are talking them to or the listeners.
I: is it inspiring? Does it bring out the positive side of things or situations? Would it propel the person or yourself or those around listening to tilt to positive actions and thoughts? If it wouldn’t, then it is not inspiring.
N: is it necessary? If you are not a standup comedian or talking on and on for you does not foot any bills then it might not be so crucial to chatter continually. It does not mean you are to speak only when spoken to but, there should be an aim to talking.
In case you didn’t know, talking can be energy-consuming. You are not obligated to correct a notion if it is unnecessary, and even if it is necessary; pause, strategize the words to be said before launching them.
To buy time when thinking of how to put your words into speech you can:
- Use filler words such as uh, um, okay, er, right, etc
- Take deep breaths
- Speak slowly
- Or just pause
K: is it kind? Being mean is not an asset, pulling someone down with your words only mirrors an inner low self-esteem. That much and more can be said of cyberbullies.
Plus, our tone depicts our words differently. A soft ‘hello’ is a lot different from a harsh toned ‘HELLO’. Changing the tone of your voice can quickly and easily diffuse a brewing temper.
Have you noticed sometimes people are grateful to others for being quiet? I have often heard this saying: “I am so happy to have you here; I feel like I can always talk to you, you are such a good listener.” It is incredible how our silence can speak volumes.
What To Do If You Have Spoken Before Thinking
We have already discussed the dangers of speaking before thinking and how to talk after we’ve thought about the impact of our words, but what does the deed have been done already?
You should remember that the best of a man is still a man so no one is above mistakes. The logical thing to do is to immediately apologize once you realized you have slipped.
The simple words ‘I am sorry’ . You can say them verbally or write them in a heart-warming text. They carry a lot of weight and with a sincere approach they should instigate forgiveness. When the other party has forgiven you make a deliberate effort to forgive yourself too. Dragging a constant cloud of regret over your head would only inflict more pain and do you no good.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”-PaulBoose
While it is impossible to control how others analyze thoughts in their head or how they speak to us, the ability to process our thoughts and situations before speaking is wholly under our control.
Some people make the mistake of linking the art of ‘thinking before speaking’ to maturity, but I beg to differ. Some youngsters have at their tender age mastered the ability to deep process their words and align their thoughts before uttering.
If it would make you feel better, here is a partial conclusion from a group of cognitive scientists suggesting that our speech is only partially planned, and speakers often are not sure of what they are saying until they’ve said it. So, it is left to us to master the art of articulating our thoughts before speaking.
“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
If you have experienced this or have a sentence or two to contribute to all we have discussed, I look forward to reading your comments. Do drop them below.