The following is an excerpt from “The PR Fix for the Everyday Person” © 2013 by Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte.
“The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”
– Ann Landers
Thinking before speaking seems obvious but most people don’t do it consistently. We have become a society of blurting out things without regard for the consequences. We see it in politics when politicians put their foot in their mouth in front of a news camera. We see it in the grocery store when impatient people berate the cashier. We see it at public hearings when people yell out their opinions. We see it in high-drama reality TV shows and think, “Can you believe she said that?”
Unfortunately, we also often see a lack of discretion in ourselves, with our spouses, children, co-workers, and friends. None of these blurts leads us anywhere good as humans or as a society. They shock and offend. They cause us to have resentments and hold grudges. They bruise our souls.
On the other hand, there are some terrific communicators that do think before they speak.
Take the image of a grandpa and his grandson sitting on a riverbank with their fishing rods. The grandson asks his grandpa a hard question. The grandpa holds his rod, furrows his eyebrows, and looks off into the distance for a while. He smiles to himself and then looks at his grandson. And then he answers the question. He’s taken all the time in the world to give the boy’s question careful consideration. Was it worth the time? Yes, and in fact, those few moments and the resulting response created a memory that the grandpa and his grandson will remember forever.
Compare that with what happens while you’re making dinner on a school night, an activity sandwiched among a load of laundry, coordinating a pickup from soccer practice, assisting with algebra homework, and cleaning the cat box. You know how weeknights are… Everyone’s scurrying and overloaded. There’s little time to think about saying something nicely. Swiftness and efficiency are critical. And yet it’s not very effective to treat people efficiently. We save time but we waste intimacy and care. This is why Steven Covey developed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People not The Seven Habits of Highly Efficient People.
There are innumerable benefits to thinking before you speak. For one, the time allows you to formulate what comes out of your mouth, to erase defensiveness and avoid reactivity. Remember that there’s no rush to give an answer or weigh in on a subject. It never hurts to take the time to pause and thoughtfully consider your words. Slow down and take your time before you open your mouth. When you do, use discretion. Remind yourself to be proactive instead of reactive. Avoid being defensive by saying “thank you” instead. Speak only for yourself. Remove assumptions and take nothing personally. You will be happier for it and so will all those with whom you’re conversing.