Speaking without thinking can do a lot to ruin our lives or the lives of other people
On a personal level
You’re usually cool as a cucumber, but today, you hear someone say something to you and you feel a click in your brain
Emotions get the best of you, before you know it, you instantly respond without thinking
Problem is, you regret the words that came out of your mouth almost instantaneously
I’m sure we’ve all done it before – letting an emotion get the best of us and blabbing out something in response only to regret it later
Sometimes it’s done with malice, as a retaliation to another person
Sometimes there’s no ill intention behind the things you say – it was just an honest mistake
Regardless, those words were said and there’s no way to retract them
On a not so personal level
Recently, due to the pandemic, many people in top positions – managers, politicians, and especially country leaders, are put under the spotlight to lead and well – speak
We’ve had the chance to see some exemplary leaders whose words are beautifully crafted, radiating assurance and comfort that people very much need
Nearer to home, we’ve got our National Hero, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, whom everyone tunes in to daily listening to his advice and updates about the pandemic.
We’ve also seen leaders of other countries giving good advice and support to handle the pandemic, such as the Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Denmark, and the President of Taiwan.
These leaders give guidance, advice, and explanations that are able to calm millions and give peace of mind to all
On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve also seen some really bad ones.
- Appear to be professionals when it comes to speaking without thinking
- Have the ‘foot-in-mouth’ syndrome
- Baffle us by the words they utter:
Maybe injecting disinfectant will be able to kill the virus
The virus is no big deal
I’ve spoken to WHO and 500 countries
Drinking warm water will flush the virus down to your stomach and your stomach acid will take care of the virus
Guess who just flushed their reputation (further down) the drain?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are a world renowned leader or just and ordinary joe – speaking without thinking can have very damaging consequences, either to yourself or to many other people
Here are 4 reasons why speaking before thinking can ruin lives
Reason 1 – Your words have impact on the actions of people
If you are in a leadership position, people look to you for guidance, advice, and knowledge. The words that you say will have an impact on other people’s actions.
If you are in an authoritative position, a lot of outcomes – good or bad – depends to a very large extent on the things that you say and how you say them. Heck, you might even cost people their lives if you’re not careful with the things you say
Just look at the States, at the time of this writing, several people died drinking disinfectant products after listening to Trump’s advice
People. Actually. Died
That’s not something you want to live with
What about if you’re a parent to a young child?
If you constantly say ignorant – or even worst, negative things – without thinking, how will your child process this?
If your children are not at the stage where they are able to differentiate right or wrong, it’s highly likely that they’ll think saying ignorant or negative things are normal and internalize them; carrying these traits with them further into adulthood
Reason 2 – You damage your own credibility and undermine your own knowledge
Will a majority of people still vote for Donald Trump after some of the statements he made when he handled the pandemic?
I don’t think so – in fact several media companies are even starting to report that Trump’s approval and credibility ratings are tumbling
Will I continue taking the advice of a certain health minister that supposedly is a doctor and have medical knowledge, after only one statement he made?
Career wise – If you speak without thinking, one wrong sentence can stall your progress.
Let’s say you said something without thinking and your less forgiving superior hears it, he or she might perceive you as a lesser person and you could end up being stuck in a position that is way below your talents, and not to mention, pay grade
Reason 3 – You harm the relationship between you and a loved one
What you say might not be what people interpret it as. As such, speaking without thinking does not give you the opportunity to consider how the person on the receiving end will feel
You might say:
- Something hurtful or condescending to your spouse
- Unappreciative or spiteful words to your family members and break their heart
- Nasty things to the partner that was supposed to be the love of your life and end up forever alone
In all cases, the relationship is going to be affected in one way or another even if you regret it
In extreme cases, the hurt is going to be so deep the relationship is severed
Reason 4 – Words shape our lives
Your words define who you are and who you are not
Studies have shown that our choice of words impact our thoughts, which ultimately impact our lives
You train your brain to emphasize on the words that you use – If you speak without thinking and regularly use harsh, ignorant, and judgmental words; sooner or later this is going to be picked up by your subconscious mind and this becomes a part of your personality
What can you do about it?
When it comes to speaking without thinking, prevention is always better than cure. Here are some ways you can prevent yourself from speaking without thinking:
Realise that the responsibility comes from you and recognise your triggers
You are responsible for what you say. More importantly, you are in control of what you say
Identify the triggers that cause you to speak without thinking – Is it anxiety? Stress? Anger? Or defensiveness?
Knowing your triggers and being aware of them enables you to filter your thoughts and words before expressing them. As a result, you are in control of the impact of your words on other people
Learn to really listen
Practice empathic listening – actively listen and try to understand what the other person is saying
Take a little time to process and interpret what you just heard. Chances are you will connect way better with the other person compared to if you reacted immediately to what you just heard
I can guarantee you that you will stand to gain more to listen than to speak
Shut your mouth
Literally, talk less!
Before you speak, ask yourself, is what I’m about to say:
If what you want to say does not fit most of the questions listed above, you’re better off not saying them
[bctt tweet=”T.H.I.N.K before you speak, ask yourself is what you’re about to say : True? Helpful? Inspiring? Needed? Kind?” username=”kennethbong”]
What a great idea! You’re awesome! I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you!
Kind and appreciative words are always welcomed and make people feel great about themselves; and positivity tends to have its way of spreading to another person
Furthermore, giving praise will train you to always look for the good in life.
And we could all use a little more goodness in life, don’t we? 🙂
Giving time to think before you say and following some of the pointers above will not guarantee that you won’t say hurtful (or dumb) things. We’re humans and we make mistakes
However, doing so will dramatically lower the possibility of hurting yourself and other people, especially if the other person is someone you care about
We owe it to ourselves to be better
So think before you speak
[bctt tweet=”We could all use a little more goodness in life, so praise more :)” username=”kennethbong”]