THINK BEFORE SPEAK
ARE YOU SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO START TO THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK?
"Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."
Proverbs 17:28 American King James Bible
One of the most obvious and significant attributes of humans is the ability to communicate through speech. An interesting corollary is that we can also communicate our thoughts in real time; we do not need to plan what we’re going to say before we say it. This has both advantages and disadvantages. It would clearly be undesirable for us to have to formulate our thoughts before issuing an immediate warning "run!” And communication would be dramatically slowed if we were unable to respond, fluidly, to people in normal conversation.
On the other hand, this innate ability is often the source of consternation when what we say on the spur of the moment is something we later wish we had either not said, or had said differently; it, sometimes, happens to each of us. The trick is to remember when. Typically, this happens when we are responding in stressful situations, or during confrontation, although it can happen at any time. Recognizing that we do not always say what we would like to communicate is an important realization. Mitigating this issue is not complex, but it does require some behavioral changes. The goal is to be aware of when to talk naturally and fluidly and when to think before we speak and when not to speak at all.
TIPS ON HOW TO THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK
Observe yourself: Take note of the circumstances when what you say is not what you, upon reflection, would have wanted to say. Does it happen mostly with one particular person or a particular group of people or just groups in general? Is it most often in arguments or debates? Is it when you’re "on the spot" and pressed to supply information? Try to find a pattern.
Recognize your situation: After you determine what circumstances might be most likely to produce this unwanted effect, try to be very observant about when those conditions appear to be manifesting. The more skilled you become at recognizing this, the better you will be at changing your approach.
Observe the conversation. Now that you know you’re in one of "those" situations, the goal is for you to process information. Often when we respond in a less than appropriate way, it’s because we didn’t fully comprehend what was being said. This is the time to sit back and listen to what’s going on around you. Don’t start focusing on what you’re going to say; just absorb. Your mind will process this information in the background.
Observe the people: Who is speaking and how do they communicate? Some people are very literal and some people use examples. Some people use a lot of facial expression and body language to augment their conversation, whereas others rely on complex verbiage. How people convey information is a very good indicator of how they best absorb information.
Formulate responses: Not just one, but consider your options. There are many different ways to say things. and your goal here is to find the best way to convey what you want to say in a way that has a positive impact. Communication is primarily a function of the recipient so you have to communicate based on the listener.
Consider the information: Is what you want to say Effective, Necessary, Accurate, Timely, and Appropriate (ENATA)? If you are just responding because other people are talking, then it’s possible your communication doesn’t fit the ENATA model. If not, then sit back and continue to listen. You want what you say to have impact, not just make noise.
Gauge the reaction: Is the information you’re going to present formulated in a way to make a positive impact? Creating a negative atmosphere will guarantee failure in communications. You want people to understand that you are contributing rather than detracting. It only takes once to ruin your ability to communicate during that time. Identify how the listeners will react.
Be thoughtful about your tone: How you say it is, in many ways, as important as what you say. Tone of voice can convey enthusiasm and sincerity, or it can rebuff and show sarcasm, and as most people have experienced, what we say can be taken in the wrong way. The most likely reason is that the tone of voice, what was said, body and facial language, as well as content, were not all thoughtfully combined to integrate with the listener’s most effective method of communication
Communicate: You now know what you’ll say, why it’s ENATA, how you’ll say it and the most likely reaction. Wait for an appropriate break in the conversation and speak. It’s usually best not to interrupt, although there are occasions when that will work best. When to interrupt is beyond the scope of this document
Observe yourself again: While you’re talking, consider what you’re saying and keep a close watch on the reactions as they emerge. After the conversation is over, review the whole process again in your mind and note what you might have done differently and why. This is an ongoing process. Over time, you will refine and improve – you will become a better communicator and people will accept your responses with a more open mind.