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Think Before You Speak – Listen – Have Empathy For Others

“Think before you speak” How often have you said something that you wished you could take back, or that you have regretted later when you have had time to mull things over properly? Yep we have all been there and done that, but what I wanted to do today was to go deeper into why we all should think before we speak.

The reason being is that through experience, I can tell you that what you say and what people hear are two very different things and we think we are being helpful, supportive and positive. But it can still be taken in the wrong way and if not recognized can have a dramatic impact on the other persons life.

So what I am going to go through below are my reasons on why you should think before you speak, tips on being better at it and also how to be nice to people in general.

Communication in every relationship you have is paramount to it’s success. As an example the other day, I had to make a decision about whether I should visit my 7 year old daughter that I haven’t seen for 2mths due to lockdown and the coronavirus.

Now there were impacts both to her and my wife and daughter I live with also. So I asked my wife what she thought and she said “It’s your decision”. Now I took this as it was up to me to make that decision and I wasn’t very happy about that. What my wife meant, was that she fully supported any decision I would make about it and that I have her full support to see it through. Now we could only get to this understanding by listening to what each other actually meant, rather than presuming and taking our own thoughts into account only.

One of the lessons I have learnt in life is that everything we say can have such an impact on other people’s thoughts and emotions that it can cause them to hate their life as a result of what we say. Which is why we need to speak before we think and generally think about what the impact of what we are saying has on other people. If we understand the impact then we can adapt the way that we deliver the message we want to get across.

Think Before You Speak
Think before you speak – Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

We all have our opinions in life and our own values, but that does not mean that anyone that gets in the way of those values is wrong. We have all been educated in our own ways, been told different things, have different peers and friends, so valuing what anyone has to say will allow you to better think of the best thing to say in a given situation, whilst also remaining calm in your delivery.

Choosing your words wisely always starts with understanding the question in hand first and foremost. So think about what the person is actually saying or asking you in the first place. This means don’t multi task, put your phone down and actually listen to what someone is saying to you. Then ask questions as examples below

  • How important is this for you?
  • What would this mean to you?
  • Is that how you really feel?
  • What would happen if this did not work out?

I think you get the gist. So if your kids come up and say something like “mum I am feeling depressed” rather than saying you will be okay just get on with it. You can ask things like

  • Do you want to talk about it?
  • Is there anything in particular that is making you feel this way?
  • Is there anything that I can do to help?
  • How is it making you feel?
  • Can you think of anything that will make you feel better?
  • How about we try this to help

I think you get the gist of this so far, because when someone comes and says something to you, in their mind it is really important. So if you take that on board and ask them lots of encouraging questions you will find the answers and get clarity on the subject. A popular way to do this is by tackling it with the following acronym

  • T = Is It True – Is what you are saying or replying to them a true statement? There is no point giving someone advice based on information that is false. So always think about your reply and how you can add your experiences in to help them with any decisions they may be able to make. Do not however compare yourself or others to their situation unless it is true and there is an inspiring outcome to it all. The worse thing ever is when you feel crappy about something, is be compared to others as everyone has their very own individual story and we all react differently to different events.
  • H = Is It Helpful – Is what you are saying going to add value to the conversation. Is it going to be something that you can both agree would be a great way of moving forward. Is it something that gives options in the circumstances and a way out of whatever mess has brought on the situation in the first place.
  • I = Is It Inspiring – Inspiring people with examples of things that have worked out is a much better way than saying you might be right there you could fail at this. The other way is to say “yes you might fail but you might also win and if you learn from your mistakes and take this as a challenge, then you can only ever improve. Always think about what inspiring things will turn a negative emotion into a positive one.
  • N = Is It Necessary – Do you actually need to say it. Sometimes we can let our mouths run too far and fill someone’s head with unnecessary doubts and thoughts. So don’t add to their anguish also use the above inspiring thoughts to point them in a positive direction instead. Look at ways to reduce the stress and not add to it.
  • K = Is it Kind – We should always be kind in everything we do. Our job is to make everyone believe in themselves and not to make them feel like crap and be unworthy. We should understand and have empathy for others, despite how stupid it might sound to us, it is not stupid to them. Empathy is a real big emotion that we should all use. Simply telling someone to get on with it, or it will be okay will not cut the mustard. It is all our jobs to ask questions, to reduce fears, to offer hope and solutions to everyone that needs it. After all anything can happen to any of us, we could all become homeless, we could all get sick, we can all lose loved ones and we are not invincible. So when you are kind to others the law of reciprocity is real and will come back to you when you need it. But there is no point expecting to be treated kindly by others if you do not follow this pathway yourself.

The one other big thing you can do apart from thinking before you speak is learn to apologize when you get it wrong. We all make mistakes and we all say things we didn’t mean too. But don’t hide from it and hope things will go away because they won’t. That person will hold it in their memory and that is what they will remember you by. So if you have said the wrong thing, correct it by getting back in touch with that person and apologizing and then go through the THINK process to make things better.

The way I see life is that we cannot control what people say to us or how they will react to a given situation but what we can control is our own thoughts and how we react to a situation. So below are my top tips on how to handle situations better when people have said things they haven’t really thought about.

My Top Tips On Dealing With People Who Haven’t Thought Twice About What They Say

  • Don’t react – Reactive behavior is damaging for everyone concerned. One badly spoken word can set off a catalyst of reactions and you often get into a you did this – I did that conversation. Before you know it, you have forgotten what the argument was about in the first place and have gone off on a complete tangent. So never react to any behavior without having clarity of thought first, this will make you a better person overall.
  • Don’t take things personally – This is a really hard thing to do as sometimes you will get offended by what someone says to you. What you have to determine is whether or not they actually meant it or not, so ask them. If they didn’t you have saved yourself anguish, if they did, see if they have a point or not and see whether you think they are right or not by questioning yourself about your own behavior. Like I said above it is okay apologize as we all do things wrong sometimes.
  • Don’t be mean back – When someone is mean to you, do not retaliate. This is hard because your natural fight instincts will kick in and you will want to be mean back. All you can do is rise above the challenge and be a better person. Wipe those people out of your life as quickly as possible and learn to live for yourself instead.
  • Take your time – You don’t have to give answers straight away. We live in a World where everyone is on demand and available through social media. When people text you they wait for an answer back, you don’t need to answer anything without thinking about your response. So don’t hastily reply to something as you might not come across in the right way.
  • Have patience – Some conversations take time and cannot be resolved in one conversation. So give things and people time to absorb everything and to think about what they have said in the first place. Then revisit the conversation and keep trying until you get to a solution that you are both happy with.
  • Don’t interrupt people – The worse thing you can ever do is interrupt people when they are speaking. This is a major lesson to be learned because they will either get annoyed or think you are not listening to what they are saying. If they think you are not listening you will disengage them and they will withdraw and you will not be able to convince them to come back to the conversation.
  • Stop overthinking – Don’t make up your mind by overthinking situations and making someone else’s mind up for them. Give them the opportunity to talk to you and see what their reaction is going to be. We can all be over thinkers at times but just ask the relevant questions and get answers and you will save yourself a lot of worrying along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions About Thinking Before Speaking

  1. What does it mean to think before you speak? It means to think about the consequences of what you say. Sometimes we can say things that hurt other people’s feelings, when we are generally concerned about them. To us we are trying to be kind, to them it is like we are picking at their scab and hurting them. It is unintentional words that make people feel undervalued. Now I am quite sarcastic at times and my wife never wanted to talk to me last night because I was joking about something. I said she just sat on her bum at the till all day and couldn’t be tired when walking. She took it badly and thought I was saying she was lazy. So sometimes you just need to be aware of the things you say and if someone goes into their shell it is highly likely you might have said something to offend them. Apologize tell them what you meant and move on.
  2. Why we should think before speaking? Words can get us into trouble and can and do say things sometimes we shouldn’t. Whether that is by offending someone without meaning too or giving up too much information about something. It is easier said than done sometimes which is why it always necessary to make sure you realize you might have said the wrong thing and apologize. Sometimes it is also because we are being spiteful or not in a good mood, saying these sorts of things can do massive harm. If you are pulled into an argument with someone it is especially important that you do not get in a tit for tat situation. Mainly because you won’t think before you speak and will likely say a whole load of things you wished you hadn’t. Controlling your emotions and your words is really important if you want to communicate with others in a controlled way and to get the best outcome.
  3. How do I train my brain think before I speak? This takes awareness of your thoughts and how to process them in a way that it is delivered using the THINK method we discuss above. It does take time but when you are flowing in conversation sometimes, things might come out wrong. If you recognize that you have said something you didn’t mean, then don’t feel silly just retract the comment and explain things in a better way. We don’ always get communication right, but what we can do overtime is realize how we respond to things in certain situations and look to change them. Don’t feel pressurized to answer questions or conversations immediately and if it is important then just ask if you can think about it first before replying. Or come back to it later. Our first response might not be the best one so make sure you are comfortable of revisiting it later if you haven’t had time to THINK before responding properly. If someone is pestering you for an answer, then make them wait a little longer. You always want to give the best response that you can.
  4. How can I think faster when talking? Make sure that you are listening to the conversation properly. Ask to repeat the question if you think you might not have the right perception of what they are asking for. Talk more often with more people, people tend to avoid conversations nowadays and would prefer to talk by IM or email. The only way you can learn to think faster is by having more conversations. Sometimes you need to slow the conversation down and give yourself time to answer too. So don’t be hasty in giving responses quickly, you want to make sure that you choose exactly the right words to say using the THINK methodology.
  5. What do you call a person who speaks without thinking? This could be classed as impulsive behavior, but you also need to understand that person first. It could just be their nature that they do this and they don’t like pauses, or they like to ask question after questions which can bamboozle you. The best thing as above is to just slow the conversation down a bit and have some momentary pauses whilst you dig deep to provide the answer. Tell them that you need time to think about that one and come back to it later. Never feel pressurized to give answers you aren’t comfortable with, unless you are on a game show that is 🙂

So that is my viewpoint on why you have to think before you speak. I see life as a big learning curve and after being in some dark places myself I continue to grow inside and understand more about what makes people think and feel.

If you want to be happy again then do more of what makes you happy and then other people’s problems, issues and questions you will be able to deal with more effectively. Because you will be happy with your own life, you won’t react or say the wrong thing because you will have empathy and you will be kind to others.

This happens when you decide to live for yourself as if you are happy in life then everything around you becomes easier to deal with and everyone around you will bounce of your happiness. I know it sounds easy but I put together my own transformation program to help you get there. So if you need a little motivation in life to help you learn how to be happier in your day then do check it out at https://changeyourlifeforever.co.uk

In the meantime I wish you all the best in your future. Best wishes Scott

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