The tendency to shoot from the lip has doomed many an endeavor or personal interaction. If you are prone to speak first and think later, you could be missing out on opportunities. These tips can help to curb your impulsive blurts and make your life happier as a result.
- Imagine you’re stepping off a cliff.
The next step you take could be momentous, or it could be disastrous. Before you open your mouth to say whatever pops into your head, think of the potential consequences or ramifications. This will give you a little time to edit your words before they’re spoken. Remember, you can’t take back what you said, so use your words wisely.
- Employ the two-second rule.
If imagining standing at a precipice doesn’t help, there’s always the tried-and-true two-second rule. Count to two slowly, breathing in to get sufficient oxygen to your brain. Believe it or not, this brief pause is often enough to allow you enough time to change what you’re about to say — for the better, that is.
- Think of the effect your words will have on the recipient.
The religious advice to do unto others as you would have done unto you applies to spoken words as well. Before you let your words escape, think of the way the recipient will receive them. Chances are that you don’t really want to create a painful experience or cause that person to instantly dislike or fear you. Since others can generally detect a blatant lie, do you want them to distrust you? How would you feel if those same words were directed at you? Perhaps this is enough to soften your word choice prior to speaking.
- Ask a trusted friend for his or her opinion.
You might not be the best judge of how you speak, so it might be advisable to ask a good friend to tell you the unvarnished truth. Be prepared for a few surprises, as your own perception of how you come off to others is likely a little different when someone who knows you well gives you the straight scoop. If you’re able to accept the critique, this may go a long way toward helping you curb your impetuosity.
- Practice before you need to deliver.
Suppose you’re about to address your employees, or counsel a family member on an important matter, or offer your advice to someone who requests it. If you know you have a tendency to be a little too blunt, practice what you intend to say before you actually say it. You don’t need to memorize a script, just get the right tone.
Remember that intent has a great deal to do with what you actually say. If you want to be helpful, supportive and constructive, your words will tend to support that intent.
- Write it down first.
Imagine you need to have a conversation with your boss. You want to ask for a raise, but you’re worried that some of your less-than-stellar performance might work to your disadvantage. Or, perhaps you have come to the painful decision that you need to break up with your significant other. You don’t want to hurt him or her, but this is a necessary step you realize you need to take. Instead of letting fly with whatever impulsive remarks come to mind, a better strategy might be to write down key points you want to make. This will help you stick to the important parts and avoid getting into the weeds with negative ones.
- Remember that a smart mouth lives forever on the Internet.
In today’s tech-savvy society, much of human interaction occurs via texting, posts on social media and email. You’d be wise to remember that anything you say using these methods will never disappear. Calling someone a jerk or being hypercritical isn’t good for your image, no matter how good it feels to get something off your chest. Remember that what goes into cyberspace is going to stick. This should help you restrain yourself – and result in better messages.
- Think who you most admire and try to emulate them.
Take some time to think of all the people you know who’ve been instrumental in your life, or those you may not know but admire their leadership skills. What is it about them that strikes a chord with you? If you really want to improve your ability to speak persuasively, to inspire confidence, spark enthusiasm, to comfort or counsel, perhaps emulating the people you most admire is a good approach.
- Consider professional speaker training.
People who regularly speak in public don’t just have a natural ability to talk to strangers. Many find that taking a class in public speaking helps them organize their thoughts, work on their breathing and body language, and practice their delivery. Pay attention to the tone, as well as the words.
- Keep a positive outlook.
It’s not easy taking a hard look at yourself and finding the courage to make changes. A positive outlook will help. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. Just making the decision to change is a tremendous first step. Take comfort in incremental improvements with an eye toward the goal – being comfortable with what you say, wherever, whenever and whomever you say it to.
Speak no evil photo available from Shutterstock