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5 Ways to T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak

Updated on June 30, 2016

"What did you just say?!"

Have you ever said something to someone and their immediate reaction was, "What did you just say?!" Uh-oh. That's a pretty clear indication that what you said was either rude, insensitive, thoughtless or offensive. It's embarrassing to say the least, especially when you try to undo what was said. However, the thing about words is that they're not easily forgotten and the wrong words can leave someone else with a negative impression. Using the acronym T.H.I.N.K. can help you measure your words and avoid embarrassing and negative situations in the future.

Step 1: Is it True?

Before you open your mouth to speak, ask yourself this question: "Is what I'm about to say true?" Very often we repeat things that other people have said without bothering to check the facts for ourselves. Worse yet, we repeat information that we know is embellished or even flat out false. There's an old saying that goes, "Truth will out". What that means is the truth will eventually come to the surface and when it does, you'll be pegged as a liar, which will make others question your integrity in other matters. So before you say something, make sure what you're saying is true.

Humble Pie tastes a lot better than Eating Crow.

— Unknown

Step 2: Is it Helpful?

The second step to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak and avoid embarrassing situations is to ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to say helpful?" Very often, people offer what they believe is "good advice" or "constructive criticism" and don't realize how much their words negatively impact another person. In fact, to a person who is already self-conscious about something, those words that were said with good intent can turn out to be downright detrimental. For example, I overheard a woman say to another lady who had lost her husband the previous year, "Shouldn't you be over that by now?" That question was neither helpful nor sensitive to the lady who was still grieving the loss of her husband and only served to make her feel guilty for being bereaved.

Step 3: Is it Inspiring?

Many of us care about others and want what is best for them, but before you speak ask yourself this question, "Is what I'm about to say inspiring?" Motivating a person to make good choices or make a positive change can come about in several ways, but very often people use anger, criticism or scare tactics to encourage motivation. However, if you really want what is best for someone that you care about, then being a source of inspiration and positive feedback will ultimately help them be more successful. If you want them to break a bad habit, first set a good example for them to follow, provide plenty of positive encouragement and help them stay motivated along the way; in other words, be their inspiration.

Step 4: Is it Necessary?

Almost everyone has at some point been a victim of someone else's "oversharing". Before you speak, ask yourself this question, "Is what I'm about to say necessary?" Sharing too much information, especially things of a personal nature, make other people uncomfortable and unsure of how to respond. It can make them perceive you to be a blabbermouth or untrustworthy to handle sensitive information. In some cases, when a person gives an overly long and drawn out response to a seemingly simple question, it causes the other person to stop listening entirely and view the speaker as being "full of themselves". If you want to avoid making negative impressions on others, make sure the information you are sharing is necessary to the conversation.

Step 5: Is it Kind?

The last step to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak is to ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to say kind?" There is already so much negativity in the world that it is easy to get caught up in it and project negativity onto others. Sometimes what we think is funny or a joke turns out to be cruel and offensive; something we feel as being honest turns out to be insensitive and demeaning. Showing kindness with your words involves a high degree of empathy, or putting yourself in another's place to understand things from their perspective. Before you speak, think about how what you plan to say will be perceived by the listener. You can never go wrong with kindness and compassion.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

— Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama


If your desire is to become not only an effective communicator, but also avoid having to eat your words and be the type of person that others see as honest, instructive, motivational, trustworthy and compassionate, then just remember this handy acronym:

  • T- Is what I'm saying TRUE?
  • H- Is what I'm saying HELPFUL?
  • I- Is what I'm saying INSPIRING?
  • N- Is what I'm saying NECESSARY?
  • K- Is what I'm saying KIND?

If you remember to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak, you're certain to find yourself being sought out for quality conversations.


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