Go ahead and admit it. You have said things before that you wish you hadn’t—and wanted to take back. Right? Sure, we all have.
It’s part of human nature. Sometimes we get so emotional about something that we forget to think before we speak. It’s like something paralyzes our rational and logical brain, and in the process, our emotional brain lets words come out of our mouths that never should have.
However, some people do it more regularly than others. And if you want to learn how to think before you speak, you have come to the right place.
But first, let’s talk about the 11 reasons why you should think before you speak.
Some people may have been taught by their parents to think before words come out of their mouths. But many others have not. If you are in the latter category, then you will want to seriously think about these very important reasons why you should think before you say something you shouldn’t.
1. Your Words Reflect Who You Are
When I was growing up, my mother taught me and my sisters not to use swear words. I thought she just wanted us to be lady-like, but there was an even deeper reason.
Sure, being lady-like is a nice thing. But beyond that, she was teaching us that the words you use determine your character. They affect not only yourself but also how people perceive you and what kind of person they think you are.
2. Words Have Power
I’m sure that you are aware of the politically correct language movement. Basically, it’s changing words to nicer ones.
For example, back in the 1970s, people used to use the word “retarded” to describe a person who was mentally slower than average. But since then, people have started using it as an insult. So, over the years, we have adopted different words and phrases like “special needs.”
The point is that if you make the words nicer, then they will not hold as much negativity.
3. Words Can Hurt (or Help) People
As I mentioned, words have power, and part of this power can be good or “evil.” What you say to a person can hurt them—emotionally and mentally.
And even though the saying goes “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” it is not true—words DO hurt. But they can also help. So, it’s important to make sure that the words you use help people instead of hurting them.
4. Your Emotions Can Make You Say Things You Don’t Mean
I’m sure you’ve been angry at someone and said something that hurt them. And after you calmed down, you might have thought, “gee, I didn’t mean it like that.”
You see, when you are angry, it shuts down the logical part of your brain and then your emotions rule yourself. And then when the emotional part of your brain doesn’t act as a filter for your words, you might say things you don’t mean.
5. You Might Have Assumed intention on the Other Person’s Part
You might be upset at someone because you thought they had intentions to hurt you. Then, as a result, you might lash out at them because of it.
But not everyone has the intention of hurting you. Sometimes, people say things that are interpreted as the opposite of what they intended. So, make sure you talk with them to see what they actually mean before you assume anything.
6. You Might Be Overreacting
When we think someone said or did something hurtful to us, our emotions tend to go through the roof. Our automatic instinct is to explode.
But that could very well be an overreaction. As I stated above, you should instead make sure that what they said warrants your emotional outburst because many times it doesn’t.
7. Your Relationship With Other People (or Situation) Doesn’t Warrant Your Words
It’s one thing to explode in anger to your sibling, best friend, or spouse, but it’s another thing to do it to your boss or another superior. You need to assess whether you are about to say is appropriate for the kind of relationship you have with a certain person.
By the same token, you also need to think about the situation. If it’s a time, say, when you are at work or a company party, then it’s best to keep your mouth shut and talk later.
8. You Might Be Judging Too Harshly
Too many people judge others before they’ve heard the whole story. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, get angry, and say things that may or may not be true.
If you automatically start criticizing and judging another person, they are going to get defensive. And when that happens, more negativity ensues, and the conversation (and relationship) can get ugly.
9. Words Can Destroy Relationships
Speaking of relationships, the more negative words that are spoken to another person over time, the more it damages them—and also the relationship between the two of you.
Think about it—would you want to stay with someone who was constantly calling you names and saying mean things? Of course not! Your words could absolutely destroy your relationship.
10. Words Can Affect Other People’s Actions
Let’s say you are angry at your 10-year-old daughter and you call her “fat” without thinking about it. Well, this is something that she may carry with her for the rest of her life, especially if you say it often.
She could easily become anorexic or develop some other problem. She may turn to self-loathing and start cutting herself. Words are long-lasting and affect other people’s actions.
11. You Can Never Take It Back
Once you say something, it is out there forever! You can never take it back. Sure, you can try, but it won’t work.
Taking back what you say is like trying to put air back in a balloon—it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how much you try, it won’t change the fact that those words are out there—forever.
What Should You Do Now?
Now that you know the reasons why you should think before you speak, how can you do that? It’s easier for some people, while others find it nearly impossible.
First, you should wait at least 5 or 10 seconds before you say anything, especially when you feel upset or angry. If you can’t keep your mouth shut, then an alternative is to just leave the room or situation. This way, you will prevent yourself from saying anything that you will regret.
When you pause for those few seconds or leave the room, you need to think about whether you have a good point to make.
Are your comments relevant, appropriate, or helpful? If not, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything.
Before you speak, consider the other person’s feelings. How will it affect them? Believe it or not, it will. And if you do find that said something that you didn’t want to, then you need to apologize and take personal responsibility for your actions and words.
Finally, don’t forget to learn from your mistakes! We’ve all said things that we regret. It happens. But the difference between people who do it all the time and the people who don’t is that the ones who don’t have learned not to do it and now know how to do it better.
If you find it difficult to think before you speak, don’t beat yourself up over it. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive for positive change.
Empathy is key—think about how your words affect others. You want to be a positive influence on other people, not a negative one. So, make sure you choose your words wisely—you won’t regret it!
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