Have you ever found yourself with the proverbial “foot in your mouth” because of something you said? We all do that sometimes, and often in situations where we then feel foolish or embarrassed. Here are some great ways to filter your thoughts before they come out of your mouth… and to consider what you are going to say before you say it.
First, before you speak, ask yourself, "Is it true?" Meaning, is what you are going to say a truth….or is it a rumor, or gossip, or an untruth you would be spreading that doesn’t merit being said?
Secondly, ask yourself, "Is it kind?" Who will be hurt if you speak your thought out loud? Is it a kindness to speak it, or is it hurtful?
Last, ask yourself, "Is it necessary?" Do you really need to say it? What would happen if you didn’t? Would what you are planning to say create positive feelings and response or unintended negative consequences?
Using this simple routine of filters for considering what you are going to say, before you say it, will help ensure that you are a positive influence to those around you as often as possible. Using it might mean that you stop gossip rather than extend it, that you curb the impulse to share an exaggerated story, that you don’t hurt someone’s feelings, or that you protect something that should remain confidential. In asking yourself if what you are going to say is true, kind, and necessary, you will also be modeling effective speaking behaviors and encouraging others to do the same.
I have a client who has struggled with her place within her company’s executive team. She thinks faster than most and, as a result, tends to talks first and is often the first to react or respond to an idea in a meeting. This has sometimes gotten her into trouble or left other’s on the team feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed for her. Together, we discussed a new technique that she has since successfully utilized when with the executive team or other groups of people: she simply takes a deep breath and counts to five before she speaks. That way, she can slow down her pace, she can consider what she is going to say, and she can apply these filters: is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary? When she does speak, then, her words serve her well…and she has become known as someone who is wise, thoughtful, and kind instead of someone who is too quick to speak and frequently abrupt and hurtful. Simple routine, right? But also very effective.
Want more proof regarding the benefits of taking a pause? Consider this from Carol Bartz, former CEO of Internet provider Yahoo: "I have a bad habit—you get half your question out and I think I know the whole answer, so I want to answer it. And so I actually had to be trained to take a breath. I really want to listen. I want to engage, but I have to shut up."
Have you considered how you can speak more effectively; possibly by applying these simple filters to what you are going to say? How might it make a difference in your interactions, how you are perceived, and how others react and respond to you?