4 Ways To Think Before You Speak (And Save Yourself From Embarrassment)

It's time to stay quiet and listen.

woman shushing Tatahnka / Jihan Nafiaa Zahri / Shutterstock

Everyone has spoken out of turn at least once. It may have happened in a job interview or while sticking your nose in business that wasn’t yours. Either way, you were likely full of regret later on.

When you put your foot in your mouth, or "talk out the side of your neck" as my parents would call it, you can ruin your reputation and credibility, hurt others, or experience unwanted repercussions.

Speaking without thinking can negatively impact you in many ways. It’s important that you hit the pause button and give yourself the opportunity to respond in the most effective way possible.


What does it mean to think before you speak?

To think before you speak means you are paying attention and actively listening when another person is talking. It means that what you are about to say is well-thought out and meaningful.

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If you want to communicate effectively, it’s a good idea to make sure your choice of words and body language convey the message you want to get across.

When we fail to think prior to speaking, our responses can be emotional, causing pain and damaging relationships. We can also talk ourselves out of opportunities and resources or into deep trouble.

Why is it so difficult to think before you speak?

As simple as it seems, for some people, thinking before they talk is not an easy task. They have an overwhelming impulse to get something off their chest and simply blurt it out.

But there are several reasons one might rush to get their point across.

1. Lack of self-control

Let’s face it, there are some of us that have no control over our impulses. We act on a whim without consideration for how we are perceived or the associated consequences.


2. Inability to listen actively

When most people listen, they are just waiting for their chance to speak their own mind instead of really "hearing" the other person. They miss out on important verbal and nonverbal cues needed to formulate a valid response.

3. Impatience

A lack of patience goes hand in hand with no self-control and terrible listening skills. You feel as if what you have to say is the most important thing in the world and, as such, you talk over and interrupt others.

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How To Think Before You Speak

1. Use the T.H.I.N.K. acronym.

The T.H.I.N.K. acronym is easy to remember when you want to put your best foot forward in a conversation.


T for true: Is what I am about to say honest and factual?

The easiest way to lose the respect of others is to recite information that you know to be untruthful. Don’t make things up, embellish, or tell lies. Be honest and upfront in your interactions.

H for helpful: Is what I am about to say helpful?

If the intention behind your words is not to be helpful or give resources, they are totally unnecessary. You can be of value to others by offering assistance or information in their time of need.

I for inspirational: Is what I am about to say inspiring?

One thing you can give to others at no cost to you is inspiration. Whether it’s a compliment or some encouragement during tough times, motivating others is always a recipe for wonderful relationships.


N for necessary: Is what I am about to say really necessary?

Next, ask yourself if the words you want to say add anything good to the conversation. Things like criticism, negativity, unsolicited advice, and gossip should never be a part of a productive conversation.

K for kind: Is what I am about to say coming from a kind place?

You know what they say — if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The same points can be made with kind words, and they’ll likely be more readily received.

Now that we have drilled the T.H.I.N.K. acronym into our minds, let’s go over three more pro tips for thinking before you open your mouth.


2. Pause and breathe.

A good practice is to always take deep breaths before you respond. It will give you more time to craft your response and give your brain the oxygen it needs to think clearly.

3. Be aware.

Keeping the fact that whatever you say is important top of mind will help you to make good decisions when speaking to others. Your words will be filtered through that sense of awareness, leading to more thoughtful answers.

4. Take your time.

It is perfectly okay to take additional time to gather your thoughts. Politely ask for a moment and respond at a time that suits you.

Ignore the pressure to speak immediately and come back with a response you can stand on.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.